Scientists have found that our lungs have odour receptors, suggesting that nose is not the only organ in the body to have a sense of smell.
Unlike the receptors in the nose, which are located in the membranes of nerve cells, the ones in the lungs are in the membranes of neuroendocrine cells, researchers said.
Instead of sending nerve impulses to the brain that allow it to “perceive” the acrid smell of a burning cigarette in the vicinity, they trigger the flask-shaped neuroendocrine cells to dump hormones that make the 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-Shahar, assistant professor of biology, in Arts & Sciences, and of medicine at Washington University in St Louis.
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