Scientists may have solution for sniffles

BY Anya van Wagtendonk  April 11, 2014 at 2:32 PM EDT
Photo by Flickr user William Brawley

Photo by Flickr user William Brawley

For many people with allergies, the arrival of spring is tempered by weeks of wheezing, sneezing, and itching. Even those with perfect immune systems can sympathize with that most tell-tale sign of spring: a nose like a leaky faucet.

We call it the sniffles, and attribute it to stress, cold, pollution, or spicy food. And we usually just wait it out, squirreling tissues away in purses and pockets until our heads clean up seemingly of their own volition.

Now scientists at the University of Colorado may have an explanation for these fits of “non-allergic rhinitis” — and with it, the potential for a cure.

According to a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a team of researchers from the CU School of Medicine, led by Thomas Finger, PhD, discovered “solitary chemosensory cells” (SCCs) lining the noses of mice that react to minor irritants as though they were serious threats, triggering an overblown series of defenses that include your runny nose.

Finger and his team are now looking to see if these cells appear in human noses. If they do, this research could be the first step toward a cure for the common sniffles.