Team members and projects

Thomas Crouzier

Thomas Crouzier

Principal Investigator

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Hongji Yan

Hongji Yan

Postdoctoral fellow

Working on immune modulating properties of mucins
Ulrike Schimpf

Ulrike Schimpf

Postdoctoral fellow

Working on reinforcing barrier properties of mucus
Georgia Petrou

Georgia Petrou

PhD student

Working on mucin-based and mucin-interacting materials
Cristina Chircov

Cristina Chircov

Batchelor student intern

Working on mucin condensation

Ongoing projects:

  • Extraction, purification, characterisation of biopolymers

    Understanding how to extract and purify biomedical grade mucins. (click to find out more)

    Mucins are already used as hydrating components in several cosmetic products. And recent studies have shown that they can be used as antiviral and antibacterial agents, and could soon find other applications in the food and cosmetic industries. But the development of technological applications of mucins is delayed by the lack of control over the quality of the mucin molecules that are used. As with other polymers of biological origin, the source and extraction protocols that are used can lead to variability in the product.

    We are establishing a series of assays that once put together will provide a quality control benchmark for mucins. A series of five parameters are explored for their consistency and representativeness of the quality of mucins.

  • Mucus engineering

    Tuning the properties of our mucus to treat mucus-related conditions such as dry eye or dry mouth. (click to find out more).

    Our mucus layer is an ever-changing material. Its chemical composition, polymer concentration and ionic strength change in response to physiological signals and impact its rheology, barrier properties, and lubricity. For instance, fluctuating hormone concentrations change the viscosity of cervical mucus to facilitate sperm movement during ovulation. Mucus gels are also altered in conditions such as preterm birth, inflammatory bowel disease, and dry mouth/eye, where the layer is either impoverished in mucus, or the mucin molecules are altered in their physico-chemical properties.

    Unfortunately there are very few strategies to recover a healthy mucus layer in these difficult cases. We are developing ways to engineer the mucus layer by topical treatments. We particularly focus on restoring the native protective abilities of our mucus layer (hydration, lubrication, barrier) when it is altered.

  • Mucin-based biomaterials

    Exploit mucins' natural functionalities to solve challenges in the biomedical and food industries. (click to find out more).

    Mucins possess a range of functionalities that could find valuable technological applications. Their high hydration, lubrication, and barrier properties have the could be key to solving challenges in the food and biomedical industries.

    For instance, we have shown that mucins can be coated on surfaces to guide the adhesion of both mammalian and bacteria cells.

    Thin nanometer-thick films of mucins can also be assembled using lectins (carbohydrate binding proteins) as crosslinker. The films have been used as on-demand release system for cell backpacks developed by the Rubner group at MIT.

    We showed that mucins can be assembled in covalently crosslinked hydrogels that can bind to model hydrophobic and hydrophilic drugs. Both drugs were release in a sustained manner thanks to the sticky nature of mucins.

    Mucins could help solve on-going challenges in the delivery of biologics. For instance, the epidermal growth factor (EGF) is naturally found in association with mucins in saliva and in the gut and is responsible for the healing effect of wound licking by animals. However nothing is known about potential mucin-EGF interactions or synergistic effects. Better knowledge of mucin/EGF interactions could lead to new, more effective material to deliver EGF from wound dressing materials. Indeed, mucins possess inherent properties that make them well suited for this application. This includes high hydration, the ability to form protective dressings to close-off wounds, and potentially, the capacity to bind and deliver bioactive molecules that promote epithelialization, such as EGF.


Postdoctoral researchers

Dr. Sujit Kootala


Master students

Mark Högqvist

Victoria Linderberg

Xueying Zhong

Bachelor students

Matrina Helmlinger

Cristina Chircov