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Eur J Pharm Sci. 2010 Jul 11;40(4):335-41. doi: 10.1016/j.ejps.2010.04.007. Epub 2010 Apr 22.

An investigation into the role of mucus thickness on mucoadhesion in the gastrointestinal tract of pig.

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Laboratory of Pharmaceutical Technology, Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Coimbra, Coimbra, Portugal.


Mucoadhesion in the gastrointestinal tract is a complex phenomenon and both formulation and physiological features need to be well understood and considered. Mucus thickness has been inferred to play a role in this process; however no definitive influence has been established. This study aimed to investigate the influence of mucus thickness on the mucoadhesion process, using a large animal (pig) as a model to closely resemble the human physiological features. The mucus thickness of different regions of the gastrointestinal tract of pig was fully measured by means of a histochemical method (hematoxilin/eosin) employing cryostat sections. Mucoadhesion was evaluated ex vivo on porcine mucosa by tensiometry using a polyacrylic acid polymer (Carbopol 974P NF) as a mucoadhesive model material, both in a dry and swollen state. Mucus was thickest in the stomach (body 67.9+/-54.7 microm) and mucus thickness increased from proximal to distal segments in both the small intestine (duodenum 25.9+/-11.8 microm, ileum 31.0+/-15.7 microm) and large intestine (caecum 19.4+/-8.7 microm, ascending colon 31.9+/-17.2 microm, descending colon 35.1+/-16.0 microm and rectum 40.8+/-12.5 microm). Swollen polymer exhibited lower mucoadhesion than the dry form in all sections analysed. Mucus thickness plays a role on the mucoadhesion, as thicker mucus provides deeper polymer chain diffusion and entanglements; however, other factors are also involved in this complex process.

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