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The secret life of snot

Snot, what's it all about?

Snot

Here at the BSI, we're inquisitive people so we set about finding out more about those disgusting things called bogies. The result was our stand 'The Secret Life of Snot' at The Big Bang Fair 2011 which took place at the ExCeL Centre, London from the 10-12 March. 

For those of you that weren't able to make it, we’ve put our findings here, along with our snot recipe. You can download copies of this and our other snot related resources here.

Why do we make it?

Snot protein

The nose is the dirtiest organ in the body. Why? Because it acts as a filter cleaning the air that we breath, removing harmful dirt and germs from the air that goes to our lungs.

Mucus is our body’s equivalent to fly paper, it lines the nose trapping the dirt and germs stopping them from damaging the lungs. But it does better than just sticking to them – mucus is loaded with protective proteins that kill and disable germs, like bacteria and viruses.

The final step is to remove them from the body, and this is done by coughing or sneezing but most of it is actually eaten!!!! Yes that’s right, eaten, where anything that was living is destroyed by stomach acid.

What's in it?

Snot protein

How does our body make something that is quite so disgusting and gloopy? Well it’s all thanks to a group of proteins called MUCINS, these large proteins are covered in sugar that absorb water giving mucus its sticky gooey consistency.

The remaining proteins in mucus give it a protective function, these include:

  • antibodies – these tiny proteins produced by B cells, activate the immune system alerting it to the presence of foreign objects such as dust and germs
  • lysozyme – an enzyme that chops up bacteria

What about the colour?

Snot

While most of the time mucus is clear, it can turn bright yellow or green. We all know that this means we’re sick, but why has the mucus changed colour?

NEUTROPHILS are part of the immune system’s rapid response system. Once on the scene they swallow bacteria and viruses (a process known as phagocytosis) and spray antiseptic chemicals to kill nearby germs. Sadly however they also kill themselves while doing this and end up in the mucus like the germs. These neutrophils have a green colour (due to iron within the cell) which is why your snot turns green when you’re sick!
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Gruesome Snot Recipe

You need:

  •         1 tbsp Gelatine powder
  •         1 tbsp Hot water
  •         2 tbsp Sugar syrup (corn syrup or golden syrup)
  •         Food colouring
  •         A plastic container/bag
  •         Paint brush or dropper

Making your own snot: 

  1. In your container mix the gelatine and hot water together, stir quickly until the gelatin dissolves. 
  2. Using a paint brush or dropper add a very small amount of food colouring. 
  3. Add the sugar syrup and mix until it goes stringy and snot like. 
  4. Enjoy! 

Keep your snot in the fridge or you might find something growing on it!

Download our snot related resources