A lab appeared at the end of a long set of stairs in the basement. An X-ray mark was evidently shown under a sign titled “X-ray research underway.” There were 23 blue gum modules as big as an adult’s thumb that contained white material the size of a small earring. They were human teeth.
“The teeth were pulled out from patients and donated by dental clinics,” said Park Jong-in, a researcher at the Graduate School of Convergence Technology of Seoul National University, at Gwangyo Techno Valley in Suwon City, Gyeonggi Province Wednesday. Choi Gwon, a colleague that stood next to him, said that the teeth, which are 1,000 in total, had obtained approval from The Institutional Review Board. It was a bit creepy to imagine 1,000 teeth.
The teeth are used to develop technology that measures the amount of radiation exposure, which was in desperate need by the Japanese government when the Fukushima nuclear accident occurred in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake in 2011. The government had to quickly and accurately measure the amount of radiation exposed to residents, but the legacy technology of drawing blood to search for DNA variations was too slow and painful.
The amount of radiation exposure becomes a key basis to determine whether a patient is needed to be sent to a hospital with sterile facilities to receive emergency treatment. Strong radiation exposure exceeding 1.8 Gy for chemotherapy undermines immunity levels and can even result in death.