Made-to-order mucus may change medicine

Made-to-order mucus may change medicine

Your body is filled with slime. But don’t panic — it’s a good thing. Your lungs, gut and other areas are dressed in a layer of mucus that is as beneficial and essential to your body’s functions as it is, well, gross.

In many places, mucus acts as a picky bodyguard, letting in helpful bacteria and slamming the door in the face of sly pathogens and harmful agents. That’s your standard slime.

But what if you had access to designer mucus that was even better — and doubled that function of actively encouraging good bacteria while keeping their seedier cousins out?

Researchers from Denmark found out.

Using kidney cells, scientists were able to create human mucins [myü-sᵊns]. They are proteins with specific sugar molecules that make up mucus.

Researchers theorize that they may be able function as a prebiotic, assisting the good bacteria in the body with growth. Similarly, artificial mucus could be a viable alternative to antibiotics when treating bacterial infections. That’s a welcome potential solution, especially in the case of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.

This lab-made “designer” mucus may even act as a speedbump for viruses, like the flu, looking to take hold in the cells that line the nose, lungs and windpipe. The lab mucus would compete for use of an enzyme that the virus needs to replicate, jostling it out of place and preventing newly created virus particles from spreading. Slime saves the day.

Further research and development are needed, but the benefits of naturally occurring mucus remain undisputed. But don’t worry: You can appreciate this underrated substance — and still blow your nose when the need arises.

Related Episodes