Grand Challenges: Helping Our Bodies Clear Respiratory Infections
Mucus, the thick sticky substance produced in our nose or throat, plays an important barrier role in our immune response. Depending on the molecular make-up of the mucus, it can either protect us from respiratory bacteria and viruses, or result in thicker mucus that is difficult for our lungs to clear. This build-up of mucus is seen in numerous diseases (e.g., cystic fibrosis, COPD, COVID-19) and can lead to chronic infections. The research team will engineer a protease specific to the mucin proteins that are produced in excess in these diseases while leaving other protective mucin proteins untouched. Because this novel therapeutic targets the overexpressed mucins, it can be effectively used against a variety of microbes that cause disease due to their persistence in the respiratory tract.