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Important breakthrough in mucosa research


A significant breakthrough, which could have a far-reaching impact in the pharmaceutical industry, has been made by a research scientist at Biofilms Research Center for Biointerfaces.

Javier Sotres has developed a method for determining and measuring properties of intestinal mucosa that were previously unknown.

The results are presented in the article ‘Ex-Vivo Force Spectroscopy of Intestinal Mucosa Reveals the Mechanical Properties of Mucus Blankets’, which has been published in the journal, Scientific Reports. 

‘Mucus blankets’ are the mucosal surfaces. Mucus is the viscous secretion – largely made up of glycoproteins – that gives the mucosal surfaces their elasticity and protective capacity. 

Javier Sotres“The challenge with mucus is that it is probably the softest material we have in our body. That is why it is difficult in a laboratory setting to know when you have reached its surface as it offers so little resistance,” said Sotres. 

Bacterial movement

The primary aim of the project is to develop a method to measure the strength of the interaction between the mucosa and particles that reach its surface. The refinement of an atomic force microscope has been achieved with the aid of a positioning system that helps guide individual microparticles to an exact position on a tissue sample, which in these experiments was taken from the small intestine of a pig. 

“We have used silicon dioxide particles as they are easy to work with. In the future. however, it is bacterial movement through the mucosa into the body’s organs and out into the blood that will be of greatest interest,” said Sotres. 

Industry cooperation

The results could be of far-reaching significance in the pharmaceutical industry, where knowledge of how drug delivery agents and active substances make their way through the mucosa could lead to the development of new types of drugs. 

This research is part of a collaborative venture with the pharmaceutical company Ferring, whose funding has made the project possible. However, the company has also influenced the direction of the research. Previously, purified mucus was used in previous experiments, but Ferring realised that it mirrored reality quite poorly. 

“As far as I know, this is the first time anyone has succeeded in measuring the properties of the mucosa in this way outside the body,” Sotres added. 

Text: Adrian Grist

Last updated by Adrian Grist