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Biorheology. 1989;26(4):737-45.

The role of mucus gel viscosity, spinnability, and adhesive properties in clearance by simulated cough.

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Pulmonary Defense Group, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Canada.


We investigated the role of the viscoelastic and adhesive properties of mucus gel simulants on the clearance of mucus by simulated cough. Mucus-like gels with widely varying viscoelastic properties were prepared from polysaccharides crosslinked with sodium borate. Cough was simulated by opening a solenoid valve connecting a model trachea to a pressurized tank. The clearance of gels lining the model trachea was quantified by observing marker particle transport. Viscosity elastic modulus, relaxation time and yield stress were measured with a steady-shear viscoelastometer. Spinnability (thread formation) was determined with a filancemeter. Adhesivity (surface tension) was measured by the platinum ring technique. The viscoelastic and adhesive properties of the mucus gel simulants spanned the ranges observed for bronchial secretions from patients with COPD. The relationship between simulated cough clearance and the viscoelastic and adhesive properties of the gels was analyzed by stepwise linear regression of the non-zero data matrix. The major independent variable relating to clearance was viscosity. Secondary, but highly significant dependences, were also found for spinnability and adhesivity. Elastic modulus, relaxation time and yield stress had no independent effect on cough clearance over the investigated range. The results indicate that, in the absence of airway surface liquid, cough-type clearance relates primarily with mucus gel viscosity. For a given viscosity, clearance is also impaired by spinnability, i.e. the capacity of the mucus to form threads. At constant viscosity and spinnability, clearance is further impaired by an increase in the adhesivity of the mucus. The negative dependence of each of these physical factors can be rationalized in terms of their inhibitory effect on wave formation in the mucus lining layer during high velocity airflow interaction.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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