News

Teeth gnashing effects up to half a million Irish people on a daily basis

A team of researchers, Dr. Padraig McAuliffe and Prof. Brian O’Connell in the Dublin Dental Hospital and Dr. Ramesh Babu and Dr. James Doyle from AMBER, the Science Foundation Ireland funded materials science centre based at Trinity College Dublin, have today announced that their new spin‐out company, SelfSense Technologies Ltd has licensed sensor technology from Trinity College, and secured €100k investment from NDRC. The company has unveiled a novel intelligent mouth guard device called SmartSplint, which accurately records and monitors teeth grinding (bruxism) of patients and allows their dentists to help them manage the condition more effectively.

SelfSense Technologies Ltd will develop diagnostic and monitoring sensors for tooth‐grinding and SmartSplint will be brought to market in autumn this year by the Trinity College spin‐out company. The company is currently taking part in the NDRC VentureLab programme for scitech start‐up companies.

SelfSense Technologies has secured a licence to technologies developed with over €700k in grant funding from EI, SFI and HRB at Trinity College Dublin and the Dublin Dental Hospital. The team is seeking to raise investment in the next 6‐9 months and continues to work in close collaboration with the world class research and clinical facilities at Dental Hospital and the AMBER Centre at Trinity College Dublin. The company arose from collaboration between Dr. Padraig McAuliffe and Prof. Brian O’Connell from the Dublin Dental Hospital and Dr. Ramesh Babu from AMBER and Trinity’s School of Physics and Dr. James Doyle, AMBER.

Tooth grinding or clenching is a very common issue affecting up to half a million Irish people on a daily basis. The nightly grinding of teeth goes far beyond that of a minor inconvenience. This can be a chronic condition, leading to severe facial pain and headaches, dental wear and damage to dental restorations such as crowns, veneers and implants. The cost of repairing teeth damaged by bruxism can run into the thousands or even tens of thousands over time but can be greatly reduced by wearing a night guard (splint). Unfortunately, because bruxism mainly occurs at night, many patients don’t realise that they are grinding. Some don’t use the splints appropriately and the tooth damage and long‐term repair costs continue to mount. SmartSplint will be able to deliver up to date, personalised information about bruxism right to the patient’s phone and help them to understand their condition better and perhaps point to how they could modify their lifestyles to reduce how much they grind.

Dr. Ramesh Babu, Principal Investigator at AMBER, Senior Research Fellow in the School of Physics at Trinity College and co‐founder of the new company, said: “SelfSense Technologies brings together a team with expertise in materials science, and profound knowledge and experience in the dentistry sector to help resolve an issue that affects up to half a million Irish people daily. We are pleased SelfSense Technologies has been so successful in its funding applications so far, with over €800,000 having been raised to date. At present we have hired two scientific researchers and as we push forward with our second round of funding applications we will look to hire further researchers and expand the team.”

Dentists understanding and ability to manage the condition will also be greatly improved. Dr. Padraig McAuliffe, co‐founder of SelfSense Technologies, said: “As a dentist, it can be very difficult to know whether an individual patient has bruxism until we see that some damage has been done. By then it’s too late. Early diagnosis and prevention of damage are key. We developed SmartSplint because there were no bruxism tests available that we considered suitable or practical for widespread use at an affordable price. The success of treatment for tooth decay and gum disease were revolutionised by the development of simple tests and we hope that SmartSplint can do the same for bruxism.”

It is expected that SmartSplint will be launched in Ireland late in 2015 and will be available in dental practices internationally in 2016. If you would like more information about the device, when it will be available or feel that you might benefit from it, please feel free to contact the team at info@selfsense.ie.

Prof. Georg Duesberg, Investigator in AMBER and Trinity’s School of Chemistry, and his team in collaboration with Universite Grenoble Alpes and McGill University, Montreal have fabricated a new graphene biosensor, which has demonstrated very high sensitivity in detecting cholera toxins. The work was recently published in the prestigious, Journal of the American Chemical Society.*

The sensor, known as a Surface Plasmon Resonance (SPR) sensor is an established optical technique for the study of biomolecular interactions and can potentially be used for lab-on-a-chip sensors. The researchers discovered that the addition of graphene leads to a two-fold increase in the sensor signal. Graphene is a single-atom thick sheet of carbon with extraordinary properties; it is ultra-light, flexible, and transparent. It amplifies the signal of the SPR sensor and the ultrathin layer can also anchor individual molecules for a specific disease. This sensor was used for the detection of cholera toxins but it could be expanded to other conditions, such as a range of infectious diseases and also cancer. The cholera toxin was detected within minutes, in contrast to current detection techniques which may take hours or even days.

The graphene grown in Duesberg’s lab has been shown in this recent publication to be more suited to the sensor development than other forms of graphene used previously. The graphene growth technique is known as chemical vapour deposition (CVD) and it creates large areas of single layer graphene with few defects. The lack of defects and homogeneity of the graphene surface is what aids the amplification of the sensor signal.

Prof Duesberg is a member of Europe’s Graphene Flagship, which lays out a science and technology road map, targeting research areas designed to take graphene and related 2D materials from academic laboratories into society. With 142 partners in 23 countries, the Graphene Flagship was established following a call from the European Commission to address big science and technology challenges of the day through long-term, multidisciplinary R&D efforts.

*The full paper can be viewed at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/ja511512m

AMBER, the Advanced Materials and BioEngineering Research Centre in Trinity College Dublin, have announced the winners of their national Design your Nano Gear competition.

The aim of the competition was to offer students the opportunity to learn more about nanoscience, and to use that knowledge in a creative way – by designing their own nano gear. Nanoscience is the study of materials on the nanoscale or 1000 times smaller than a single human hair. The competition challenged primary and secondary school students to imagine how they thought nanoscience will impact our sports and clothing in the future, by designing their own nano gear.

The top two winning entries in each category (primary and secondary) have been brought to life by a professional illustrator and were displayed at the Irish Science Teachers’ Association Annual Conference, which took place on the 27th and 28th March 2015.

Top prize in the secondary school category went to Jack Thurk (2nd year, St. Columba’s College, Dublin) for his design of a scrum cap that can alert players and staff to potential head injuries in real time, as a rugby match is being played. Pressure sensitive nanowires, incorporated into the scrum cap design, will light up a series of LEDs in the cap if the impact of a collision is above a certain level. Second prize in the secondary school category went to the Swim Safe, Swim Nano wet suit by Aimee Cope and Claudia Lonergan (2nd year, Loreto St Michael’s, Navan, Co. Meath). The wet suit contains sensor technology that monitors a diver’s life signs and has quantum dots to illuminate the suit for greater visibility in the water.

Top prize in the primary school category went to Ross Quinn Lyons (6th class, Glasnevin Educate Together NS) for his idea to create a bracelet that can charge your phone as you walk. Using the super material graphene, the WatchAMaCallIt bracelet will eliminate the need for charging your phone at a socket. In the primary school category second prize went to Lauren Middleton (5th class, Belgrove Senior Girls’ School, Dublin) for her design of graphene kneepads for skate boarding. These knee pads are strong, flexible and light. They also have the ability to grow with their owner, meaning you would never need to buy new kneepads!

Mary Colclough, Education & Public Engagement Manager at AMBER, said “We were really impressed by the standard of entry to this year’s competition, and how students and teachers are really engaging with nanoscience now from as early as 4th class. Ireland is ranked 3rd and 6th globally for nano and materials sciences respectively, and there are real opportunities for students both academically and in industry within these fields.”

Nanoscience is leading to the revolution of materials and manufacturing, with applications across a range of industries including energy; medical devices; pharmaceuticals; technology and bioengineering. ‘Nano in my Life’ and ‘NanoWOW’ resource packs, aimed at TY and senior primary pupils, are available for teachers and students who wish to learn more about nanoscience.

Click here to view the designs and find out more about them.

To get a free copy of “Nano in My Life” or “NanoWOW” for your class, email nanoinmylife@tcd.ie

In having been given the opportunity to work in the AMBER exploring materials course for a week, I was given the opportunity to gain a valuable insight into the world of researchers and was able to work with some of the leading scientific researchers in the world. It is such a rarity for students as young as ourselves to be immersed into a world such as that of the phd researchers.

For example, upon our arrival in St. James’s hospital on Tuesday afternoon we met Laura Kickham. Laura is currently researching, and is extremely close to, finding a cure for leukaemia alternate to chemotherapy. This works on the basis that cells have adhesive properties that allow them stick to surfaces, in this instance, veins. However Laura’s research has found away to lessen the cell’s adhesive properties unsticking them from the vein wall. This allows the cells to be then targeted in the blood stream. Hopefully when the research is completed it will be able to be applied to all types of cancer.

Another aspect of the course I enjoyed greatly was the focus and emphasis on careers and third level courses in science. On Wednesday morning we had a talk called Smart Futures in which we were told all about the career and third level prospects in science. The talk on Wednesday afternoon about how to start up a business was also a very good indication of how to find a career in science.

Overall the week was a great experience. Obviously for the incredible scientific work that we were involved in, but as well because it let us see what college life is like. To be able to soak in the wonderful atmosphere of Trinity college and it’s surroundings. That in itself is a week well spent. Then to add in all the things we did makes for quite an amazing week. As I said before, it is not often that a TY student will be given an opportunity such as this and I would urge anyone with the slightest interest in science to apply.