Mucin networks are viscoelastic fibrillar aggregates formed through the complex self-association of biopolymeric glycoprotein chains. The networks form a lubricious, hydrated protective shield along epithelial regions within the human body. The critical role played by mucin networks in impacting the transport properties of biofunctional molecules (e.g., biogenic molecules, probes, nanoparticles), and its effect on bioavailability are well described in the literature. An alternate perspective is provided in this paper, presenting mucin’s complex network structure, and its interdependent functional characteristics in human physiology. We highlight the recent advances that were achieved through the use of mucin in diverse areas of bioengineering applications (e.g., drug delivery, biomedical devices and tissue engineering). Mucin network formation is a highly complex process, driven by wide variety of molecular interactions, and the network possess structural and chemical variations, posing a great challenge to understand mucin’s bulk behavior. Through this review, the prospective potential of polymer based analogs to serve as mucin mimic is suggested. These analog systems, apart from functioning as an artificial model, reducing the current dependency on animal models, can aid in furthering our fundamental understanding of such complex structures.

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Published in Polymers, v. 8, issue 3, 71, p. 1-28.

© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons by Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

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This work was funded by National Institutes of Health (Grant R03 DE019496).