Mucoprotection: a natural approach to treatment

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Mucous membranes keep us alive. They line the external walls of the organs and other body cavities. Current research shows a growing interest in the fundamental role that mucous membranes play as protective barriers, by preventing a wide variety of diseases generated by pathogenic microorganisms, allergens or toxic environmental particles. For example, alterations in the usual bacterial flora that resides on the surface of the gastrointestinal tract can lead to the development of diseases as diverse as Crohn's disease, irritable bowel syndrome, the loss of intestinal permeability typical of infectious gastroenteritis or colonization by pathogenic bacteria that may later migrate to the urinary tract causing cystitis.

Currently, there is increasing interest in non-pharmacological alternatives that contribute to preventing or reversing the alteration of the mucosal barrier. The aim of this new strategy is to create a mechanical barrier that prevents or reduces contact of the mucosa with allergens, irritants, pathogens or virulence factors. Furthermore, the use of mucoprotectors, commonly marketed as medical devices, ties in with concerns about antibiotic resistance, the chronic use of medicines and their adverse effects.

To understand the role of mucoprotectors, we must understand the role of mucin, a viscoelastic substance secreted by specialized cells in the mucosa and formed by glycoprotein polymers, which lubricates and hydrates wide surfaces of the human body. Its absence produces easily perceptible symptoms in the cornea, such as the disease known as dry eye; in the mouth, as oral dryness or xerostomia; or making the intestine more vulnerable to inflammatory pathology. Its high molecular weight facilitates the formation of lattices and nets of greater or lesser thickness, depending on the area of the body concerned and the function.

 

Natural mucin network function 1

Regulates bacterial adherence

Provides surface lubricity and retains moisture

Act as bacterial shield for the underlying mucosal surface

Allows for a selective permeability (nutrients, oxygen transport etc)

Key functions within human body 1

Ocular mucus

Retains epithelial moisture (tear film). Avoids dry eye

Nasal mucus

Provides lubricity. Regulates bacteria and particulate removal

Buccal mucus

Provides lubricity. Prevents tooth demineralization and dry mouth

Respiratory mucus

Facilitates air humidification and mucociliary clearance.

Gastric mucus

Shields from direct gastric juice exposure

Intestinal mucus

Facilitates easier bolus passage. Regulates intestinal flora and protects intestinal wall

Vaginal mucus

Hinders pathogens

 

Among the mucoprotectors that mimic mucin, natural polymers present a high biocompatibility, they are well tolerated by the human body, they are biodegradable and are easily available. Natural polymers have many applications, from use in the food industry, as ingredients in medical devices or as components for the release of medicines in the pharmaceutical industry.

Examples of natural polymers

Polysaccharides

Proteins

Plant origin

Animal origin

Plant origin

 

Animal origin

cellulose

gelose

xyloglucan*

guar gum

chitin

soy protein

pea protein

collagen

gelatin

 

*The role of xyloglucan, one of the mucin-like ingredients, is the main component of some of Noventure’s medical devices and has recently been the subject of a review of its medical applications (Piqué N; Gómez-Guillén MC and Montero MP. Xyloglucan, a plant polymer with barrier protective properties over the mucous membranes: an overview. International Journal of Molecular Sciences 2018, 19, 673).  

1. Authimoolam SP and Dziubla TD. Biopolymeric mucin and synthetic polymer analogs: their structure, function and role in biomedical applications. Polymers 2016, 8, 71

Félix Berrocal Orvay's picture
Félix Berrocal Orvay
Medical Manager www.Noventure.com