Biopolymers have a surprising number of responsibilities in our body; they hold cells together to form tissues, they provide subtle chemical signals to cells to guide their behavior, they contribute to the skin’s hydration and elasticity, they lubricate our joints and gastrointestinal tracts, and protect us against toxins and pathogens by assembling into the mucus gel that covers our eyes and respiratory tract.
We seek to understand how these natural materials provide the wide range of functionalities they exhibit in our body. We then engineer new materials that mimic or enhance these functionalities.
We are particularly fascinated by the MUCIN biopolymers. Mucins are glycoproteins (~40% protein, ~60% sugars) that form the mucus gels. A better understanding of how mucins work is key to address the many mucus-related diseases, including cystic fibrosis and inflammatory bowel diseases.
The mucins covering our epithelium hydrate, lubricate, protect, and modulate cell behaviors (see our outreach page to learn more about mucins). As such, mucins may also become reference biopolymers for new generations of functional biomaterials.
We can harvest mucins from animal secretions or tissues including humans saliva, snails slime, pig stomachs, jellyfish, and many others.