John P. Barker Distinguished Professor Michael Rubinstein, an expert on polymer theory, has been selected as the new Chair of the editorial board for the journal Soft Matter.
Soft Matter publishes 48 issues per year, has a global circulation and an interdisciplinary audience with a particular focus on the interface between physics, biology, chemical engineering, materials science and chemistry.
Mucus clearance is the primary defense mechanism that protects airways from inhaled infectious and toxic agents. In the current gel-on-liquid mucus clearance model, a mucus gel is propelled on top of a "watery" periciliary layer surrounding the cilia. However, this model fails to explain the formation of a distinct mucus layer in health or why mucus clearance fails in disease.
In collaboration with UNC's School of Medicine, researchers in the Rubinstein Group, featured on the cover of Science, propose a gel-on-brush model in which the periciliary layer is occupied by membrane-spanning mucins and mucopolysaccharides densely tethered to the airway surface. This brush prevents mucus penetration into the periciliary space and causes mucus to form a distinct layer. The relative osmotic moduli of the mucus and periciliary brush layers explain both the stability of mucus clearance in health and its failure in airway disease.