Scientists at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Iowa have found odor receptors in the lungs. They believe the receptors act as protectors against harmful irritants.
Unlike the receptors in your nose, the receptors in your lungs are responsible for the constriction of airways. The receptors, called pulmonary neuroendocrine cells, may be responsible for the type of hypersensitivity associated with respiratory conditions, and may provide a new target for therapeutic treatments.
“We forget that our body plan is a tube within a tube, so our lungs and our gut are open to the external environment,” lead researcher Yehuda Ben-Shahar, PhD, was quoted as saying. “Although they’re inside us, they’re actually part of our external layer. So they constantly suffer environmental insults, and it makes sense that we evolved mechanisms to protect ourselves.”