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Did Researchers Find the True Purpose of Sneezing?

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"We now know why we sneeze."

Many have thought sneezing was a method of removing foreign particles or irritants from your nose. Although this could still be the case in some instances, new research from the University of Pennsylvania may suggest a slightly different reason.

According to the report published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, the nose may simply be resetting its proper function with a sneeze. Here's how the press release explained it:

[...] scientists now know exactly why we sneeze, what sneezing should accomplish, and what happens when sneezing does not work properly. Much like a temperamental computer, our noses require a "reboot" when overwhelmed, and this biological reboot is triggered by the pressure force of a sneeze. When a sneeze works properly, it resets the environment within nasal passages so "bad" particles breathed in through the nose can be trapped. The sneeze is accomplished by biochemical signals that regulate the beating of cilia (microscopic hairs) on the cells that line our nasal cavities.

"While sinusitis rarely leads to death, it has a tremendous impact on quality of life, with the majority of symptoms coming from poor clearance of mucus," Noam A. Cohen, M.D., Ph.D. -- a researcher involved in the work from the Department of Otorhinolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia -- said in the press release. "By understanding the process by which patients with sinusitis do not clear mucus from their nose and sinuses, we can try to develop new strategies to compensate for their poor mucus clearance and improve their quality of life."

Using cells from mice noses grown in incubators, the cells had their natural mucus removed. The researchers reviewed the biochemical response of he cells after a puff of air (sneeze). From there they compared nasal tissue of patients with an without sinusitis. What they found was the response of the cells to a sneeze is different depending on having the condition or not.

With that, the researches think those with sinusitis sneeze more often as their "nasal environment" is failing to be properly reset.

Gerald Weissmann, M.D., Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal, said "We now know why we sneeze."

Researchers believe understanding this more will lead to the development of more effective treatment for patients with sinusitis.

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