3D printed tongue replicates the real thing. (Credit: University of Leeds)

Scientists have created synthetic soft surfaces with tongue-like textures for the first time using 3D printing. This opens new possibilities for testing dry mouth therapies and other applications.

The team replicated the highly sophisticated surface design of a human tongue and demonstrated that their printed synthetic silicone structure mimics the topology, elasticity, and wettability of the tongue’s surface. These factors are instrumental to how food or saliva interacts with the tongue, which in turn can affect mouthfeel, swallowing, speech, nutritional intake, and quality of life.

Using computer simulations and mathematical modeling, the team created a 3D printed artificial surface to function as a mold containing wells with the shape and dimensions of the different papillae randomly distributed across the surface with right density. This was replica-molded against elastomers of optimized softness and wettability.

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