Proof of concept of new material for long-lasting relief from dry mouth conditions

A novel aqueous lubricant technology designed to help people who suffer from a dry mouth is between four and five times more effective than existing commercially available products, according to laboratory tests.

Developed by scientists at the University of Leeds, the saliva substitute is described as comparable to natural saliva in the way it hydrates the mouth and acts as a lubricant when food is chewed.

Under a powerful microscope, the molecules in the substance, known as a microgel, appear as a lattice-like network or sponge, which bind onto the surface of the mouth. Surrounding the microgel is a polysaccharide-based hydrogel that traps water. This dual function will keep the mouth feeling hydrated for longer.

Results from the laboratory evaluation show benchmarking of the microgel-reinforced hydrogel-based aqueous lubricant against commercial saliva substitutes, and are reported in the journal Scientific Reports.

The novel microgel comes in two forms: one made with a dairy protein; and, the other a vegan version using a potato protein.

The new substance was benchmarked against eight commercially available saliva substitutes. All the benchmarking was done in a laboratory on an artificial tongue-like surface and did not involve human subjects.

With the commercially available products, between 23 and 58% of the lubricant was lost. With the saliva substitute developed at Leeds, the figure was just 7%. The dairy version slightly outperformed the vegan version.

Dr Olivia Pabois, a Research Fellow at Leeds and first author, said: “The test results provide a robust proof of concept that our material is likely to be more effective under real-world conditions and could offer relief up to five times longer than the existing products. The results of the benchmarking show favourable results in three key areas. Our microgel provides high moisturisation, it binds strongly with the surfaces of the mouth and is an effective lubricant, making it more comfortable for people to eat and talk”.