Dry mouth no more? Scientists develop artificial saliva to relieve cottonmouth

LEEDS, United Kingdom — Anyone who’s dealt with a case of dry mouth knows it can be extremely annoying and distracting. Luckily, help may soon be on the way in the form of a new hydrogel developed by scientists at the University of Leeds. Researchers say their new invention may be a common ingredient in the oral care products of the future.

The hydrogel, a bio-inspired lubricant, was created to serve as an artificial replacement for saliva that doesn’t include additional lipids (fats and oils). This is notable because many elderly patients who suffer from chronic dry mouth shouldn’t be ingesting any more lipids.

Dry mouth cure can improve food too?

A new hydrogel has significant potential for oral care products that can help with dry mouth relief.
(Credit: Anwesha Sarkar/University of Leeds)

Besides just curing dry mouth, this new hydrogel may also have potential within the world of food. Study authors say it may help to replicate the lubricating properties of fat content in certain food products. If attainable, this would help create healthier, less caloric foods without reducing that food’s taste and texture.

“The excelling lubrication performance of this patented microgel-reinforced hydrogel is attributed to the synergistic interactions between the proteinaceous microgels and the biopolymeric hydrogel with benefits of both viscous and boundary lubrication,” says principal investigator Anwesha Sarkar in a media release. “The development of this bio-inspired aqueous lubricant technology as alternative to saliva is a high priority. To date, such superlubricity is not achieved by any other commercial dry mouth therapies as they lack boundary lubrication properties.”

“With the help of ERC Proof of Concept Funding, we are now collaborating with Nexus at the University of Leeds and expect to license this technology soon to industries to ultimately provide sustained relief to dry mouth patients,” the professor of Colloids and Surfaces at Leeds concludes.

The study is published in ACS Macro Letters.