The warmer the nose, the better it resists the cold

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The warmer the nose

Chilly weather and common respiratory infections are often closely related.

The reason is that more people gather indoors in nose winter, and the virus survives better in indoor air with lower humidity. However, there is less certainty about whether and, if so, how lower temperatures actually impair immunity in humans.

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Now, a new study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology details a previously unknown way the immune system attacks viral invaders inside the nose and finds that it works better when warm .


Mansoor Amiji, a professor of pharmacy at Northeastern University who co-led the study, told AFP that these findings could pave the way for eventual treatments for the common cold and other viruses.

A starting point is a previous study by Amiji and his colleagues in 2018, which found that nasal cells release “extracellular vesicles” (EVs).

“The best analogy is a wasp nest,” said Amiji. Like wasps defending their nests from attack, EVs swarm, bind and kill intruders.

For the new study, the team set out to answer two questions. Are EVs also secreted from the nose when you have a viral infection? So, is the intensity of the reaction related to temperature?

To answer the first question, they used a test substance that mimics a viral infection to irritate the nasal mucosa (the thin tissue that lines the nose) taken from volunteers who underwent surgery to remove polyps.

They found that they actually produce EVs that target the virus.

To address the second problem, they divided the nasal cell samples into two groups and cultured them in the lab, placing one set of samples at 37 degrees Celsius and the other at 32 degrees Celsius.

This temperature was chosen based on a separate test that found that the temperature inside the nose drops about 5C when the outside air drops from 23C to 4C.

Under normal body temperature conditions, the EVs were able to successfully fight the virus by presenting a “bait” target to which they would cling instead of the receptors they would otherwise target on the cell.

However, fewer EVs were produced at reduced temperatures, and the packaged EVs were less robust against the intruders tested.

Co-author Benjamin Blair, an eye and ear surgeon at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts, said in a statement that he “was unconvinced why there was such a marked increase in viral infections during the colder months.”

“This is the first quantitative and biologically plausible explanation developed.”

One of the most exciting aspects of the work is its potential to activate the body’s natural production of virus-targeted EVs to fight or even defeat colds or even the flu and Covid, Amiji said.

“It’s an area of great interest to us and we certainly continue to pursue it,” he said.

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