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Pig stomach mucins are effective as anti-viral agents for consumer products

Mucus often elicits strong revulsion, but to MIT biological engineer Katharina Ribbeck, it is a fascinating material.

“Without it, we wouldn’t be able to smell, we wouldn’t be able to reproduce, and we would all be the victims of pathogens,” says Ribbeck, who studies the antiviral properties of mucins, the main component of mucus.

Mucus, which coats wet surfaces in the bodies of all animals, is the body’s first line of defense. It allows nutrients, other vital molecules and sperm to enter, but keeps out pathogens such as certain dangerous viruses and bacteria. Ribbeck, the Eugene Bell Career Development Assistant Professor of Biological Engineering, is trying to figure out how mucus achieves this selectivity. Of particular interest is the role of mucins, the major building blocks of mucus.

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