Students from the College of Dentistry applied the science behind the formation of water beads on lotus leaves to solve a disturbing problem during the coronavirus pandemic.

Under the supervision of Praveen Arani, associate professor of oral biology, the students created free face shields and comfort bands as a form of personal protective equipment (PPE) using 3D printers that were eventually used by about 3,000 dental professionals at university centers across the country. . However, first, the students had to figure out how to prevent the armor from fogging up, making it difficult for the wearer to see it.

Arani explains that commercially available anti-fog solutions found in glasses and car exteriors were not suitable due to their potential to irritate the skin or cause illness if inhaled or swallowed.

Lotus leaves provided a eureka moment for researchers.

“The hydrophobic nanostructure prevents water absorption in the leaves,” he says. “It floats and secretes natural wax.”

After considering several wax formulations that would keep personal protective equipment clean and non-toxic, the research team discovered that a combination of carnauba and beeswax produced optimal results.

“With a few adjustments, the condensation went away,” Arani says.

The researchers’ discovery is described in a paper published August 28 in the journal Peer J Medical Sciences by students Succay Gadhar, Shaina Chechang, and Philip Sales, with Arany.

The idea for the project came about because dentists needed clear shields that could also accommodate dental loupes, the magnifying glasses they wear while examining patients’ mouths.

The College of Dentistry’s 3D printers, which had previously been used to create and investigate 3D-printed drug-filled dentures, smart fillings and bone regenerative scaffolds, were idle once the pandemic hit.

“The strategy was to create something like N-95 masks that were transparent,” Arani explains. “The pandemic, with its need for masks and protective suits, has exacerbated some people’s fear of dentists. “Because of the opaque nature of the masks, non-verbal cues were missing.”

The students began working with Arani in the spring of 2020, and continued to improve the shields over the next year, including solving the fog problem. They also discovered that isopropyl alcohol provided the best disinfectant for reusable shields that would not disrupt anti-fog agents, and they figured out how to shape the masks at a slight angle so that the edge wouldn’t hurt the wearer’s face.

Interestingly, Gadar, one of the primary researchers, was a student at Williamsville North High School at the time. Arani says he read about the PPE project in the local news and wanted to help correct the condensation problem. Through largely online collaboration, he was invited to join the research team and came up with the exact formulations that were eventually tested in the laboratory. He is now a biomedical engineering student at the University of Texas at Austin.

Qichang, who was a third-year dental student and is now an oral surgery intern at the University of Chicago, conducted the sterilization studies based on her ongoing clinical use of personal protective equipment. Sells, then a master’s student in biological sciences and now a second-year dental student at UCLA, led the 3D printing design and fabrication process that took place in Foster Hall on South Campus.

Jaewon Kim, a former periodontist who is now an assistant professor at the University of Oklahoma College of Dentistry, and Jacob Graca, then a third-year dental student and now a practicing general dentist in Redondo Beach, Calif., as well. He made major contributions to the study.

A total of 20 students contributed to research and 3D printing, along with the design and operation of a PPE website and the manufacture and delivery of PPE devices.

They have received Emergency Use Authorization approval from the Food and Drug Administration to make and distribute face masks. BlueSky and the College of Dentistry Dean’s Fund financially supported the project. Besides dentists taking advantage of the free face shields, health professionals at Buffalo General Medical Center and Oishei Children’s Hospital have also used them during the pandemic.

“This has been a great learning experience for my students and me,” Arani says. “There was a real need for masks, and we were thrilled to help our clinical colleagues during this critical time.”

Although clinical professionals are not currently required to wear PPE, this may change if the spread of the new coronavirus variant, BA.2.86, leads healthcare settings to adopt more stringent cautionary measures.

“The design principles are there,” Arani says. “It’s something we can manufacture again if and when necessary.”

    (Tags for translation)Staff

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