Methods for studying mucociliary transport

Braz J Otorhinolaryngol. 2007 Sep-Oct;73(5):704-12. doi: 10.1016/s1808-8694(15)30133-6.


Mucociliary transport dysfunctions can impair the quality of life of patients suffering from chronic rhinossinusitis and lead to severe consequences such as alterations in respiratory physiology or even death as in cases of cystic fibrosis and primary ciliary dyskinesia. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the physiology of the mucociliary apparatus and how its components (cilia, mucus-periciliary layer and its interaction) affect the clearance of respiratory secretions.

Aims: This paper aims to review and to discuss different techniques for studying mucociliary transport and their clinical and experimental applicability.

Conclusions: The methods listed in this revision provide us with valuable information about different aspects of the mucociliary transport. Some of the methods listed are more suitable for clinical practice and present reproducible results. Others, show only applicability in experimental settings due to technical difficulties or financial limitations. However, it is important to emphasize that up to now there is no method that can evaluate ciliary beating frequency (CBF) in vivo and in situ. Such a method would become a valuable tool in the scientific scenario and in the clinical practice, supporting the diagnosis of ciliary dyskinesias and avoiding the use of invasive procedures to corroborate the clinical suspicion.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Mucociliary Clearance / physiology*
  • Reference Values
  • Rheology
  • Viscosity