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Odor receptors discovered in lungs

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Posted January 3, 2014
Odor receptors discovered in lungs
“They’re beautiful cells,” said Ben-Shahar, of the pulmonary neuroendocrine cells he’s been studying in lung tissues. The flask-like cells that are full of serotonin (stained green here) and other chemicals extend processes up through the epithelial cells (purple) lining the airways to monitor the chemical makeup of each breath. The top part of the image is a plan view of the airway lining and the bottom part is a section through the lining. Credit: Ben-Shahar
Your nose is not the only organ in your body that can sense cigarette smoke wafting through the air. Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Iowa have showed that your lungs have odor receptors as well.

Unlike the receptors in your nose, which are located in the membranes of nerve cells, the ones in your lungs are in the membranes of neuroendocrine cells. Instead of sending nerve impulses to your brain that allow it to “perceive” the acrid smell of a burning cigarette somewhere in the vicinity, they trigger the flask-shaped neuroendocrine cells to dump hormones that make your airways constrict.

The newly discovered class of cells expressing olfactory receptors in human airways, called pulmonary neuroendocrine cells, or PNECs, were found by a team led by Yehuda Ben-Sharar, PhD, assistant professor of biology and medicine at Washington University in St. Louis, and including colleagues Steven L. Brody and Michael J. Holtzman of the Washington University School of Medicine, and Michel J. Welsh of the Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine at the University of Iowa.

Read more at: Phys.org

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