Materials Science & Engineering

“Airway Surface Brush Sweeps Lungs Clean:  Polymer Physics Helps Us Breathe Easier”

Dr. Michael Rubinstein
John P. Barker Distinguished Professor of Chemistry
University of North Carolina

The classical view of the airway surface liquid (ASL) is that it consists of two layers – mucus and periciliary layer (PCL). Mucus layer is propelled by cilia and rides on the top of PCL, which is assumed to be a low viscosity dilute liquid. This model of ASL does not explain what stabilizes the mucus layer and prevents it from penetrating the PCL. I propose a different model of ASL in which PCL consists of a dense brush of mucins attached to cilia. This brush stabilizes mucus layer and prevents it penetration into PCL, while providing lubrication and elastic coupling between beating cilia. Both physical and biological implications of the new model will be discussed



Rubinstein’s research interests are in the area of soft condensed matter physics with an emphasis on polymer physics. His main scientific contributions include theories of polymer entanglements, dynamics of reversible networks, and models of charged polymers. His recent scientific interests are in applications of polymer physics to biological systems, such as airway surface layer of a lung and development of molecular models of polymer gels and networks including those with self-healing properties.

ISE Lab 322
University of Delaware
Newark, DE 19716

Hosting Organization:
University of Delaware

September 9, 2015

10:30 am