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Hospitals are increasingly becoming high-tech places, with machines now carrying much of the work humans used be tasked with. In fact, there is already a “fully-digital” hospital in Ontario.

That’s why it might be a surprise that the latest medical breakthrough may involve chewing gum. As in, the same stuff you can buy at a convenience store for 99 cents.

University of Manitoba Researcher Dr. Malcolm Xing believes that rubbery substance can have significant applications in the medical world. Currently, biomedical sensors (which measure vital signs like heart rate) are made of metal, which breaks easily if twisted and is expensive to replace. Since patients need to move around and have the sensors attached to different parts of their bodies, this presents a challenge for doctors.

That’s where chewing gum comes in. It’s a good alternative to metal because it’s cheap, safe and has incredible elasticity. In other words, biomedical sensors of the future could be made out of gum.

“It was promising once I could measure the heart rate with it. Until that point, I wasn’t sure,” said fellow researcher, Muhammad Ali Darabi.

Of course, putting a piece of gum on a patient won’t measure their vital signs, which is why Xing wants to outfit the stuff with carbon nanotubes, which can conduct electricity.

In an age where Canadians are getting older and healthcare coasts are expected to soar, any innovation that can save money goes a long way.

But the idea might have a surprising, second application as well: the carbon nanotube-infused gum could also be used as a lie detector because of its ability to detect changes in heart rate. While the invention is still years away from appearing in a hospital near you, it’s nice to know that the future of medicine looks inexpensive.

For more information on how chewing gum could be used in hospitals, check out the video above.

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