Artificial mucus may have a big role in future health treatments

Synthetic mucus could play an important role in future medical treatments, according to a new study from the University of Copenhagen's Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences. Researchers with the university have found a way to produce artificial mucus, including the "special pattern" of sugars found in mucus that paves the way for new kinds of treatments.

Mucus, as gross as it may be to many people, plays an important role in human health, particularly when it comes to managing "good" and "bad" bacteria. Key to the substance is mucins, which contain "important sugars" and information, the study notes. The researchers have demonstrated the feasibility of producing healthy artificial mucus to help the body take care of bad bacteria.

The researchers note that while mucins are mostly sugar, the sugar must be present in "special patterns" that bacteria can recognize. These patterns aid the body in teasing apart good and bad bacteria, the latter of which can lead to a variety of diseases like Crohn's disease. Of note, the researchers say they're now able to design these precise sugars "as needed."

There are different potential uses for artificial mucins, with the researchers stating it may be useful as a way to address infections in the body without antibiotics. An eye infection, as one example, may be treated with eye drops that contain mucin that is able to strip away the bad bacteria.

These mucins may also be able to address the influenza virus, which infects mucus membranes. One of the study's lead authors Associate Professor Yoshiki Narimatsu explained:

An incredible number of diseases have a connection to the intestinal flora, but we still know very little about how we can control the intestinal flora in the treatment of diseases. This is where synthetic mucins could open up new treatment options. Ultimately, one can imagine using mucins as a pre-biotic material, that is, as molecules that help the good bacteria in the body.