An army of microrobots will help take care of healthy teeth

Scientists in collaboration with dentists have developed a microscopic robotic team to clean teeth. The team consists of two types of robots – one designed to work on surfaces and the other to work in tight, hard-to-reach spaces. Such an army of tiny robots can effectively eliminate plaque and help keep our teeth healthy.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have teamed up with dentists and biologists to develop microscopic robots thatóre use catalytic activity to remove biofilmóin bacterial. Scientists created the tiny robots with the idea of helping people maintain proper oral hygiene, but the robotic army could find many other uses, such as maintaining water pipes, catheterów or venflonów clean.

Plaque, or bacterial plaque, is a deposit that adheres tightly to teethów. They begin to form a few moments after the last tooth brushingów. Initially, it consists only of substances contained in saliva, but is quickly colonized by bacteria, whichóre can induce próchnica. In mature plaque, about 60-70 percent of the. are Lactobacillus and Streptococcus mutans bacteria, whichóre responsible for próchnica zębów.

The results of the interdisciplinary team’s work appeared in the journal „Science Robotics”.

– We benefited from the expertise of a microbiologistów, engineerów and practicesóIn clinical settings, to design the best possible system to combat the microbesów. This is important for other departmentsóin biomedical facing the challenge of dealing with drug-resistant biofilms in the approaching post-antibiotic era – said research leader Hyun Koo.

Biofilms are multicomórkowa bacterial structure, whichóra tends to connect with rótile surfaces. These structures form everywhere, not only in our mouths in the form of plaque, but also on dirty dishes, rocks, pipes or surgical equipment. Krótko mónding, wherever fluids and microorganisms meet.

Biofilmów are difficult to get rid of. They cannot be removed with a jet of water, even under high pressure. The viscous matrix, whichóra keeps bacteria out, provides protection from antimicrobial agents. Only mechanical options remain, which is why dentists spend so much time scraping away depositsóin dental plaqueów, which is probably as much fun for them as it is for the patientów.

– Treatment of biofilmów occurring on teeth requires a great deal of manual labor, zaróboth on the part of the consumer and the professional. We hope to improve this process – admitted Edward Steager, coóroutor of research.

In an earlier study, Koo and his coóThe researchers have made good progress in breaking down the biofilm matrix. One strategy has been to use nanoparticles containing iron oxide, whichóre act catalytically, activating hydrogen peroxide to release free radicalsów, whichóre can kill bacteria and destroy biofilms in a targeted mannerób.

In turn, researchers led by Steager worked on a robotic platform thatóra used very similar iron oxide nanoparticles as building blocks for a micro-robotów. Engineers control the movement of these robotsów with the help of a magnetic field, which gives them the freedom to move them around.

Together the teamół designed, optimized and tested two types of systemóin robotic, whichóre group calls catalytic antimicrobial robots, or CARs (catalytic antimicrobial robots). Both systems are capable of degrading and removing biofilmów. The former works by suspending iron oxide nanoparticles in solution, whichóry then can be controlled with the help of a magnetic field to remove biofilms on surfaces in a mannerób similar to a plow. The second type of robotów embeds nanoparticles in gel molds and cleans off biofilmóinto hard-to-reach places.

Both types of CAR effectively kill bacteria, destroy the surrounding matrix and remove contaminants with high precision. After testing the robotów on biofilms growing on a flat glass surface or in sealed glass probóIn the first stage, scientists will launch theóbowali more clinically relevant application: removing biofilm from hard-to-reach parts of the human tooth. CAR robots were able to degrade and remove bacterial biofilms not only from the surface of the tooth, but also from hard-to-reach intercanal passages, where biofilms commonly form.

– Existing treatments for biofilms are ineffective because they cannot simultaneously degrade the protective matrix and kill the bacteria embedded therein. Our robots can do all of these things simultaneously, and very efficiently. They leave no traceóin biofilm – explained Koo.

– We think of the robots as automated systems, które take action based on actively collected information – mówi Steager. – In this case, the robot’s movement can be adapted to the imageóin biofilm collected by microcameras or by other medical imaging modalities,” he added.

Sourceóbackground: University of Pennsylvania, fot. Geelsu Hwang and Edward Steager/University of Pennsylvania. The image shows the effect of the micro-robotóin removing biofilm from a glass plate.