Step aside sound barrier: Chemical engineers at Johns Hopkins University have broken the mucus barrier, a long-standing adversary to drug delivery in diseases such as cystic fibrosis, lung cancer, and cervical cancer. "We get asked all the time, 'Why on Earth do you want to study mucus?'" said Samuel Lai, a postdoc at Hopkins who presented the work yesterday (August 20) at the annual American Chemical Society meeting in Philadelphia. Lai has an easy answer to that question: Mucus has evolved over thousands of years to remove foreign particles, he said, so it blocks not only germs but drugs, especially those targeted to mucus-coated areas of the body such as the lungs and cervix. At the meeting, Lai presented a new strategy for transmitting drug-toting nanoparticles through mucus and preliminary in vivo data describing the therapeutic potential of the engineered particles. To figure out how to overcome the sticky barrier...

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