Colgate to Conduct Oral Health Research on International Space Station

Dentistry Today
Photo courtsy of NASA Johnson


Photo courtsy of NASA Johnson

Colgate-Palmolive said it will send the first-ever private sector oral care experiment to the International Space Station (ISS), under the sponsorship of the ISS US National Laboratory.

According to the company, it designed the experiment to learn more, in a unique microgravity environment, about the bacteria that affect oral and overall health.

The experiment will travel to the orbiting laboratory aboard SpaceX’s twenty-second commercial resupply services mission, contracted by NASA, in the Dragon spacecraft launching no earlier than June 3, 2021, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

“Colgate’s purpose is to reimagine a healthier future for all people, their pets, and the planet. We constantly strive to push the limits of research and development, and now we’re pushing even further, into space,” said Pat Verduin, chief technology officer at Colgate-Palmolive.

“Our unique partnership with ISS National Lab and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) will help us go beyond what’s expected, beyond what’s known, and even beyond our planet to test and accelerate the science of oral health,” Verduin said.

The on-board experiment is designed to learn more about the growth and metabolism of oral biofilms, which take the form of dental plaque in our mouths and can lead to cavities and gum disease.

To conduct the experiment on the ISS, the crew will use microfluidic devices developed by faculty from the College of Engineering at UNLV and Colgate’s microbiologists to simulate bacterial growth on a tooth-like surface.

After more than a month of exposure to microgravity, the devices will be returned to Earth aboard the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, and Colgate’s scientists will analyze and compare results to matching control experiments conducted on the ground.

“This upcoming SpaceX mission to resupply the space station with critical supplies also includes research that brings value to our nation and enables a robust market in low Earth orbit,” said Dr. Michael Roberts, interim chief scientist, on behalf of the ISS National Lab.

“We welcome Colgate to the space station research community and hope this is the first of many successful investigations launched by the company’s scientists to the unique environment of the orbiting laboratory,” Roberts said.

Colgate expects the results of the mission to benefit more than half of the world’s population in the next five to 10 years as it looks for new ways to create more effective therapies to fight disease, cavities, and anything that threatens oral health, the company said.

This is the first of several research projects in space that Colgate has planned in partnership with the ISS National Lab.

“This is one small step towards advancing oral health, and one giant leap towards furthering Colgate’s research and development centered around smart health solutions,” said Verduin.

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