Micro-Robots Successfully Eradicate Plaque and Biofilm
A collaboration of engineers, dentists and biologists from the University of Pennsylvania has developed an army of tiny robots that can access hard-to-reach areas of the oral cavity to remove plaque and biofilm.
A collaboration of engineers, dentists and biologists from the University of Pennsylvania has developed an army of tiny robots that can access hard-to-reach areas of the oral cavity to remove plaque and biofilm. The study, “Catalytic Antimicrobial Robots for Biofilm Eradication,” published in Science Robotics, shows that robots with catalytic activity successfully eradicated oral biofilm. The team designed two robotic systems: one to work on surfaces, and the second to maneuver inside confined spaces. Development of these biofilm-removal systems was led by Hyun (Michel) Koo, DDS, MS, PhD, of the School of Dental Medicine, and Edward Steager, MA, PhD, a senior research investigator in the School of Engineering and Applied Science.
“Robotic systems can precisely remove plaque and kill bacteria that cause caries or other oral infections — and without damaging healthy tissues or disrupting the healthy microbiota,” notes Koo. “We envision programming micro-robots to perform automated cleaning precisely where bacteria accumulate and cause oral diseases. This could help clinicians and patients better manage and maintain oral health.”
Made of iron oxide nanoparticles, the robots are controlled by a magnetic field. Using a three-dimensional printer with a gel containing the magnetic nanoparticles, the team tested a screw shape to scrub inside a tube and one with fins to clean inside a narrow channel within an extracted tooth. Rotating magnets enabled the robots to be driven through the tube and channel, according to the researchers. The team plans to conduct in vivo and clinical efficacy testing to assess if the robotic system is more reliable and effective than traditional methods.
Featured image: Research from the University of Pennsylvania suggests micro-robots are effective at cleaning hard-to-reach surfaces. This time-lapse image shows one of the team’s molded, helicoid-shaped robots traveling inside a tooth.
From Decisions in Dentistry. July/August 2019;5(7):8.