A multidisciplinary team has 3D printed a replica of a human tongue, complete with artificial soft surfaces and tongue-like tissues.
Scientists led by the University of Leeds, in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, have accurately simulated the surface of the human tongue which plays an important role in how food tastes, the way food is swallowed, and nutrient absorption, among other functions.
Scientists led by @FoodSciLeeds have 3D printed the first ever biomimetic tongue surface, opening new possibilities for helping with food safety by detecting counterfeits, developing nutritional technologies, pharmaceutics, and dry mouth therapies.https://t.co/5tOhJ95QMt pic.twitter.com/31cGPjVUS2— University of Leeds (@UniversityLeeds) October 27, 2020
The scientists claim that the biomimetic tongue accurately simulates structure, flexibility, and “wettability”.
A synthetic silicone form could play a game-changing role in examining new oral technologies, while improving nutritional technologies, drugs and treatments for dry mouth.
The team, made up of food scientists and experts in soft matter physics, dentistry and mechanical engineering as well as computer science, focused on the anterior dorsal segment (roughly the middle of the visible tongue, past the tip but before the base).
This region is partly covered by some papillae (small gaps spread across the tongue), which contain the taste receptors, although not all of them act as taste receptors. The team took molds for tongue roofs from 15 adult participants.
Lead author, Dr Evrin Andablo Reyes, who described the work as a “unique architectural challenge”, said: “Hundreds of small bud-like structures called papillae give the tongue a distinctive rough texture, which, along with the soft nature of the tissues, creates a complex landscape. From a mechanical perspective. “
These impressions were then visually scanned with a 3D technique to map the dimensions of the papillae on the surface, in addition to their density and average total roughness of the human tongue. And it turns out the texture is a lot like a random plot.