The Loh Down On Science

Nasal Reboot

What’s your nose’s equivalent of control-alt-delete? Gesundheit!

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

A bit of dust, a cold, allergies. When noses get overloaded, as with a capricious computer, it's time to reboot. How? With a little thing called a sneeze.

Noam Cohen of the University of Pennsylvania was curious about the process of sneezing. So Cohen simulated the sneeze--by exposing nasal cells removed from mice and humans to a sneeze-like puff of air.

What did he learn? That the pressure force of a sneeze not only expels gunk from your nose and mouth, it also biochemically stimulates the tiny hairs in your nose to beat 150 times faster.

Their motion sweeps remaining gunk back to your throat where it can be swallowed. Gross, but effective.

But when Cohen tested the nasal cells of people with and without sinusitis, the ones with sinusitis didn’t reboot as easily. Their cilia, or nose hairs, were less responsive to sneezing, which may be why they sneeze more.

Ah well. For all the rest us, next time our nose feels gunky, obvious answer: A-tissue!

The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC Pasadena. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.?


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