In a true tale of interdisciplinary work, El-Bialy met Chen at the U of A's new staff orientation. After hearing about Chen's expertise in nanoscale circuit design and nano-biotechnology, El-Bialy explained his own research and asked if Chen might be able to help produce a tiny ultrasound device to fit in a patient's mouth. The two collaborated and eventually along with Tsui received a grant from NSERC's "Idea to Innovation," program to expand on their prototype.
Dr. El-Bialy first discovered new dental tissue was being formed after using ultrasound on rabbits. In one study, published in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics, El Bialy used ultrasound on one rabbit incisor and left the other incisor alone. After seeing the surprising positive results, he moved onto humans and found similar results. He has also shown that LIPUS can improve jaw growth in cases with hemifacial microsomia, a congenital syndrome where one side of the child's jaw or face is underdeveloped compared to the other, normal, side. These patients usually undergo many surgeries to improve their facial appearance. This work on human patients was presented at the World Federation of Orthodontics in Paris, September 2005.
"After proving it worked, we looked at creating a smaller ultrasound carrier where we can take the patient out as a variable," said El-Bialy. "Before this, a patient has to hold the ultrasound for 20 minutes a day for a year and that is a lot to ask."
The researchers are currently working on turning their prototype into a market-ready model and expect the device to be ready for the public within next two years.