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.