Mucus dynamics and transport in human-lung capillaries

The small tubular air capillaries at the extremities of the branching network within our lungs contain a thin liquid-linning of mucus. Produced by specialized glands, the mucus is transported out of the lungs by beating cilia, which are attached to the capillary walls. Under healthy conditions, this mucus layer is responsible for trapping and removing dust, pollen and other harmful aerosols. However, if this layer becomes too thick, then the airway can be choked off, leading to various breathing related illnesses, like asthma and bronchitis. The goal of this project will be to develop a fundamental understanding of the dynamics of pulmonary mucus and the mechanisms governing its transport. We will first attempt to understand how the healthy system functions, and to identify the role played by factors like mucus viscosity, mucus surface tension, air flow, etc. This will put us in position to better understand the physical causes of chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD), which will be done while taking due account of biological and biochemical factors. 

The project will involve the development and analysis of mathematical models, drawing on principles from fluid mechanics and stability theory, and utilizing the growing bio-medical literature on lung mucus and COPD.

Proposing Faculty
Research Area
  • Computational Biology
  • Computational Flow Modelling (CFD)
  • Fluid Mechanics and Stability