Mucus prevents inflammatory reactions in gut

Updated: Sep 27, 2013, 22:19 PM IST

Washington: Researchers have discovered that mucus actually helps your body maintain equilibrium, prevent inflammation, and reduce food allergy problems.

Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai's Immunology Institute foresee a day when mucus could be manufactured and given to sick people to help them fight inflammation and increase immunity.

For the first time ever, they report that mucus in the large intestine provides a valuable anti-inflammatory and self-regulating immune function. In fact, they propose that mucus may one day prove valuable in treating gut diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), Crohn's disease, as well as cancer.

Andrea Cerutti, MD, PhD, the study's senior author and Professor in the Department of Medicine at the Immunology Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine said that they found that whenever mucus was present, it was stimulating the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines (regulatory proteins released by the cells of the immune system that act to regulate an immune response).

In this research, mucus was isolated and analyzed from the intestine of healthy mice, from pigs, and from a human intestinal cell line.

A number of techniques involving cellular immunology and molecular biology were used to demonstrate the anti-inflammatory properties of mucus. In addition, genetically engineered mice lacking intestinal mucus and mice with colitis were given mucus from healthy mice.

Dr. Cerutti said that several aggressive tumors, such as colon, ovarian, and breast cancers produce mucous, including MUC2. Mucus produced by malignant cells may prevent protective immune responses against the malignant cells.

The research has been published online in the journal Science.