Andy Ward
Oct 2, 2013
Chris Rogers
Oct 2, 2013
Ruseell Sams
Oct 2, 2013
Oct 2, 2013
Courtesy NBCUniversal and Saturday Night Live

Burnt tongue? UT researchers have the cure

Over-eager eaters, rejoice! A team of UT researchers has developed an oral strip to relieve the pain that follows burning the inside of your mouth — possibly paving the way to future treatments for more serious conditions. In the meantime, the breakthrough got a Saturday Night Live shout-out.
Courtesy NBCUniversal and Saturday Night Live

The lingering pain of burning your tongue on a piping hot slice of pizza may soon be a sensation of the past.

A University of Texas at Austin research team has developed a strip that sticks like a Band-Aid to oral burns and delivers a local anesthetic, immediately dulling the pain on contact. The strip was formally presented at the annual meeting and exhibition of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists last week.

“It has a mass appeal because of its instant pain relieving potential. That’s the big hype at the moment, because everybody’s burned their mouth, of course,” said Jason McConville, the former UT pharmacy professor that helped develop the product at UT before transferring to the University of New Mexico earlier this year.

It has a mass appeal because of its instant pain relieving potential. That’s the big hype at the moment, because everybody’s burned their mouth, of course.

— Jason McConville, former UT pharmacy professor

The anesthetic released by the strip is benzocaine, a popular active ingredient for throat lozenges. The strip itself is made from a dissolvable material akin to breath-freshening strips found at convenience stores, said McConville.

The idea for the strip came from UT biomedical engineering students who wanted to design the strip as their final project, said McConville, whose research in drug delivery platforms made the collaboration a natural fit.

McConville said he hopes to continue collaboration with UT as well as take advantage if UNM’s medical school and pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities to bring the oral strip, which has yet to be tested on humans, from prototype to consumer product in a couple of years.

“It’s time to assemble another team here and hopefully collaborate more with Texas on this because it really was part of a joint collaboration between pharmaceutics and biomedical engineering, and when those two come together we tend to solve problems a lot more rapidly,” said McConville, referencing how the strip was developed in about one year’s time.

But treating oral burns is just the beginning, says McConville. He envisions the strip being used to deliver medicine to more serious oral conditions, like the oral lesions that immunocompromised people are prone to developing. The same platform could also allow for systemic drug delivery, with blood vessels in the cheek providing a pathway to the entire blood stream.

“This project is really the tip of the iceberg. The most important aspect as far as I can see from a scientific contribution is a drug delivery platform to treat a variety of ailments,” said McConville. “It’s not just for people who wish to continue to burn their mouth,” he says, tongue-in-cheek.

If development goes to plan, the strips have the potential to relieve oral burns and beyond. But in the meantime, the oral strip is providing some comedic relief thanks to a Saturday Night Live skit, which calls the research a “cure for ouch mouth.”

Watch the video here:

Banner image courtesy of NBCUniversal and Saturday Night Live

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