Two New Tongue Technologies To Watch For

If you remember from high school biology class, the tongue has a great amount of sensory and motor nerve innervation with a disproportionately large part of the brain that’s dedicated to taste, sensation, and movement. Along these lines, I found two interesting up and coming companies that uses the the tongue to treat two major conditions: obstructive sleep apnea and blindness.

The first company, Linguaflex, is developing a minimally invasive tongue implant procedure that can be performed in the office. They don’t give out very much more information, but when I searched for the company on Google Patent, here’s what I found: It seems to be a partially implantable anchor that’s placed underneath the tongue which grabs the genioglossus muscle. The part that hangs out in the mouth is loosened during the day and anchored to the teeth or a dental appliance at night while sleeping. The Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Ira Sanders, was instrumental in mapping out the neuroanatomy of the larynx during his tenure at Mt. Sinai, and is now working on tongue neuroanatomy and sleep apnea research at Linguaflex.

The other company doesn’t have anything to do with sleep apnea, but it’s such a cool concept for blindness that I thought it was worth mentioning. Their device is a sensor array (like a lollipop) that’s placed on the tongue which provides tactile feedback through a video signal that’s converted into gentle electric pulses on the tongue. You have to watch the video on their website to see what I mean.

What do you think about these new technologies?

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One thought on “Two New Tongue Technologies To Watch For

  1. My CPAP pressure is 19 cm (very high) and my BMI is 23. Hopeful of a treament that would replace CPAP for me, or maybe more likely allow the therapeutic pressure to be lowered, I have been watching the Linguaflex site for more news for some time now. Thanks Dr. Park for adding some information and pointing out the patent information.

    If I understand it correctly, it appears the patent anticipates differing placements of the device in the tongue depending on the anatomy of the individual. I notice they also cover placing the device in other parts of the airway such as the soft palate. This is a little unclear and I will read the patent more carefully at home tonight.

    There are some things that make the potential of the device very exciting such as Linguflex’s statements, “an implanted device inserted into the tongue by a single needle injection under local anesthesia. The entire procedure takes 2 to 5 minutes and can be performed in a doctor’s office.” and “The device can be easily adjusted or totally removed in 1 minute without the need for anesthesia.”

    The video on BrainPort Vision is also fascinating. My thoughts turned immediately to three friends who have lost their sight. This technology could make an invaluable improvement in their independence and quality of life.