Mucus

Sea creatures’ sticky ‘mucus houses’ catch ocean carbon really fast

larvacean
MUCUS HOUSE The pale inner house (rounded flank in foreground) as well as a big, stickier outer envelope of a larvacean’s shelter could be important in ocean carbon cycles.

Never underestimate the value of a disposable mucus house.

Filmy, see-through envelopes of mucus, called “houses,” get discarded daily by the largest of the sea creatures that exude them. The old houses, often more than a meter across, sink toward the ocean bottom carrying with them plankton and other biological tidbits snagged in their goo.

Now, scientists have finally caught the biggest of these soft and fragile houses in action, filtering particles out of seawater for the animal to eat. The observations, courtesy of a new deepwater laser-and-camera system, could start to clarify a missing piece of biological roles in sequestering carbon in the deep ocean, researchers say May 3 in Science Advances.

The houses come from sea animals called larvaceans, not exactly a household name. Their bodies are diaphanous commas afloat in the oceans: a blob of a head attached to a long tail that swishes water through its house. From millimeter-scale dots in surface waters to relative giants in the depths, larvaceans have jellyfish-translucent bodies but a cordlike structure (called a notochord) reminiscent of very ancient ancestors of vertebrates. “They’re more closely related to us than to jellyfish,” says bioengineer Kakani Katija of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in Moss Landing, Calif.

The giants among larvaceans, with bodies in the size range of candy bars, don’t form their larger, enveloping houses when brought into the lab. So Katija and colleagues took a standard engineering strategy of tracking particle movement to measure flow rates…

Scientists Develop Germ-Fighting Fake Mucus

image credit: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

We really don’t talk enough about the wonders of mucus. The goo produced by your nose, mouth, eyes, guts, and other parts is one of your greatest defenders, working hard to keep you safe in a germ-filled world. Now scientists have harnessed some of that power, creating a synthetic mucus that may help fight antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The research will be presented this week at the Experimental Biology 2017 meeting in Chicago.

Each of us produces about a gallon of mucus per day, enough to provide a thin coating over 2000 square feet of our innards. It’s a surprisingly versatile substance, for us and other animals. Last year, acoustic scientists reported that dolphins’ snot may be an essential ingredient in producing the clicks and whistles they use for echolocation. More recently, drug researchers found a…

This Frog’s Slime Fights the Flu

We’re not going to tell you to start kissing frogs (please don’t), but you might want to shake their hands: Scientists have found that the slime from one species can kill certain strains of the flu virus. The researchers published their findings in the journal Immunity.

The skin of amphibians like frogs and salamanders secretes a gooey mucus that has previously been shown to have antibacterial properties. Scientists were curious to see if the slime could also fight off viruses. They collected goo samples from an Indian fungoid frog (Hydrophylax bahuvistara), then extracted 32 peptides that looked promising. Next, they pitted those 32 peptides against the H1 flu virus,…

Frog slime protein fights off the flu

Hydrophylax bahuvistara
Slime produced by Hydrophylax bahuvistara contains a newly identified flu-fighting protein called urumin, named for a type of sword used in the region of India where the frog resides.

The next flu drug could come from frog mucus. It’s not as crazy as it sounds: For decades, scientists have searched for new antiviral drugs by mining proteins that animals produce to protect themselves from microbes. In lab tests, proteins found in amphibian secretions can defend against HIV, herpes and now the flu.

David Holthausen of…