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Drugmakers now have something to chew on in the future – medicated gum


Conventional drugs can be taken orally in different forms—from liquid syrups, gelatin capsules, and compressed tablets to soft-gel formulations. However, researchers from the University of Bristol in the U.K. have proposed a new method of orally administering drugs: by adding them in chewing gum.

The researchers’ study, published in IEEE Transactions on Biomedical Engineering, involved the use of a specialized robot that imitates humans’ chewing behavior. The robot had teeth similar to humans, followed jaw movements and even produced artificial saliva. For the study, the researchers used commercially available chewing gum containing xylitol – a sugar substitute with considerable health properties.

The team then made the robot and human participants masticate chewing gum containing xylitol. Saliva from the human participants and artificial saliva produced by the chewing robot were collected after five minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes and 20 minutes of continuous mastication. The researchers then measured the xylitol levels released in the saliva samples collected from the robot and human participants after 20 minutes of non-stop chewing.

Two observations were noted during the study. First, the rate of xylitol release from the gum in both the chewing robot and the human participants was similar. Second, the gum released the greatest amount of xylitol during the first five minutes of chewing and only a small amount of xylitol remained from the bolus or chewing gum leftovers after 20 minutes. The second observation was noted for both the chewing robot and human participants.

Xylitol: A sweet additive for oral health in chewing gums

The researchers measured the amount of xylitol released by the chewing gum in saliva samples for the study, but what exactly is xylitol?

Xylitol is a sugar substitute commonly extracted from plant sources such as birch trees. It tastes similar to regular table sugar, but contains 40 percent less calories and does not affect blood sugar or insulin levels. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved its use as a food additive in 1986, and since then, it has been listed as an ingredient in sugar-free chewing gums and mints.

A November 2014 study by researchers in India found that xylitol was effective in starving bacteria responsible for cavities such as Streptococcus mutans and Helicobacter pylori. This is because oral bacteria cannot ferment xylitol for energy as compared to other sugars, essentially disrupting their energy production and inhibiting bacterial growth in the oral cavity.

Xylitol may be good for humans, but not so for dogs as it triggers a rapid release of insulin from their pancreas – plunging their blood sugar to dangerously low levels.

The mechanical chewing robot will pave the way for studies on medicated chewing gums

The researchers behind the chewing robot elaborated on how it can kick-start research on medicated chewing gums.

Kazem Alemzadeh, one of the researchers behind the study, said: “Our research has shown the chewing robot gives pharmaceutical companies the opportunity to investigate medicated chewing gum with reduced patient exposure and lower costs using this new method.” He also mentioned that the team used bioengineering to create an artificial environment similar to that of the human mouth.

Nicola West, another member of the research team, said of the study: “The most convenient drug administration route to patients is through oral delivery methods. This research, utilizing a novel humanoid artificial oral environment, has the potential to revolutionize investigation into oral drug release and delivery.”

Meanwhile, other studies on medicated chewing gums are already underway.

In 2017, a team of researchers from the Netherlands tested chewing gum with cannabidiol (CBD), a non-psychoactive compound found in marijuana, as a cure for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Researchers from the Wageningen University studied the CanChew Plus chewing gum and how it addresses the symptoms of IBS.

Preliminary research has suggested that the cannabidiol in CanChew Plus interacts with the cannabinoid receptors inside the digestive tract to loosen tension-reducing stomach cramps and bloating and normalizing stool.

Learn more about novel ways of delivering medicine orally by using chewing gums and more at Medicine.news.

Sources include:

StudyFinds.org

IEEE.org

Healthline.com

WashDent.com

Dovepress.com

Bristol.ac.uk

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