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The Air We Breathe Nazlie Latefi, PhD - August 01, 2017
We go to great lengths to keep the harmful pathogens in our environment out of our bodies. While we may wash our hands, and avoid touching a subway pole, we can’t stop breathing. We need to breathe about 20 times a minute and with each breathe, we risk inhaling any number of undesirable microscopic particles floating around in the air. Luckily, our airway epithelial cells (the cells lining our mouth, nose, throat, and lungs) are there to defend us. These cells have various chemical signals at their disposal to deactivate harmful pathogens right away and if necessary signal a stronger immune response. Dr. Iwasaki and colleagues at Yale did a great job of explaining the communication between airway epithelial cells and the rest of the immune system. More importantly, in this paper, they identify ways in which our airway defenses may be compromised such as by cigarette smoking, obesity, cool temperatures, and certain metabolic or hormonal conditions.