Odor receptors have been discovered in the lungs.
According to a new study published in American Journal of Respiratory Cell and Molecular Biology
, the olfactory receptors in the lungs reside in the membranes of neuroendocrine cells, unlike the receptors in the nose, which are located in the membrane of nerve cells.
Instead of sending nerve impulses to the brain, allowing it to perceive a smell, the receptors in the lungs trigger the flask shaped neuroendocrine cells to release hormones that can cause airways to constrict.
The newly discovered cells, expressing olfactory receptors in human airways, are called pulmonary neuroendrocrine cells (PNECs). These cells may be responsible for chemical hypersensitivity, which is characteristic of respiratory diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
“We forget, that our body plan is a tube within a tube, so our lungs and our gut are open to the external environment. Although they’re inside us, they’re actually part of our external layer. So they constantly suffer environmental insults,” he said, “and it makes sense that we evolved mechanisms to protect ourselves.” said Yehuda Ben-Shahar, PhD, the lead of the study.
Read more from Washington University here: http://goo.gl/0klVhC
Image: Lungs, Wikimedia Commons