What’s making you sneeze? Scientists use a chili pepper compound to find out


All kinds of things can make you sneeze, but is it possible to control sneezing?

That’s what scientists want to find out, and they’re using a chili pepper compound to get some answers. Scientists at the University of Washington School of Medicine have been hard at work studying sneezing, and possible treatments. It’s no secret that pollen and dust can make us sneeze, but sometimes so can spicy food that ranks high on the heat scale. Unfortunately, when someone sneezes tens of thousands of virus-containing droplets, like those connected to COVID-19, go into the air. Because they can stay in the air for up to 10 minutes, they can also potentially infect other people.

To help slow the spread, scientists are looking for a way to control sneezing by better understanding it.

 In this case, researchers exposed mice to aerosolized droplets with sneeze-producing compounds in them. One of the compounds used was capsaicin, which comes from chili peppers. Researchers found the mice were less likely to sneeze if they lacked a certain neuropeptide, NMB, which is released by neurons. They found NMB connects the respiratory center and sneeze-evoking part of the brain. They were able to use NMB to stimulate the brain and make the mice sneeze even without exposing them to capsaicin. In this particular study, the researchers were also able to show when capsaicin was used, the mice produced NMB, which sensed an irritant. The NMB was able to bind to the NMB receptor and the neurons talking to the respiratory center resulted in a sneeze.

It’s hoped this research could be used in the future to potentially help with sneezing treatments that could help fight respiratory infections. This is just one way capsaicin’s being used to help better your health in the future. Of course, the hot chili pepper compound adds a big boost of flavor to a variety of things too, and that’s a benefit we can all cheer about

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