Medical research

How the small intestine defends itself against bacteria

Researchers at the University of Gothenburg have been studying the mucus involved in defending the intestines and airways against infection for more than 30 years. To date, their work has focused very much on the large intestine, ...

Medical research

Restoring airway integrity in cystic fibrosis patients

Cystic fibrosis is a rare genetic disease which can cause very serious symptoms. In particular, patients suffer from chronic bacterial infections that can lead to respiratory failure. It is caused by mutations in the CFTR ...

Immunology

Mayo Clinic Minute: When asthma attacks

Asthma is a lung condition that causes swelling of the airways. It can make breathing difficult and trigger coughing, wheezing and shortness of breath. It's the most common chronic disease among children, though it affects ...

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Mucus

In vertebrates, mucus (adjectival form: "mucous") is a slippery secretion produced by, and covering, mucous membranes. Mucous fluid is typically produced from mucous cells found in mucous glands. Mucous cells secrete products that are rich in glycoproteins and water. Mucous fluid may also originate from mixed glands, which contain both serous and mucous cells. It is a viscous colloid containing antiseptic enzymes (such as lysozyme), immunoglobulins, inorganic salts, proteins such as lactoferrin, and glycoproteins known as mucins that are produced by goblet cells in the mucous membranes and submucosal glands. This mucus serves to protect epithelial cells in the respiratory, gastrointestinal, urogenital, visual, and auditory systems in mammals; the epidermis in amphibians; and the gills in fish. A major function of this mucus is to protect against infectious agents such as fungi, bacteria and viruses. The average human body produces about a litre of mucus per day.

Bony fish, hagfish, snails, slugs, and some other invertebrates also produce external mucus. In addition to serving a protective function against infectious agents, such mucus provides protection against toxins produced by predators, can facilitate movement and may play a role in communication.

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