Neural Hyperresponsiveness and Nerve Growth Factor in Allergic Rhinitis
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BACKGROUND: In allergic rhinitis, symptoms are triggered not only by allergens but also by environmental irritants. Hereinafter we address the hypothesis that this is reflective of increased responsiveness of the neural apparatus which, in turn, may be attributable to upregulation of nerve growth factor (NGF) in this disease. METHODS: We compared subjects with active allergic rhinitis and healthy volunteers in terms of sensitivity and/or magnitude of three nerve-mediated responses, namely (1) the sneezing reflex induced by histamine, (2) the central or nasonasal reflex depicted by contralateral secretions induced by unilateral nasal challenge with capsaicin, and (3) the axonal reflex depicted by plasma extravasation upon capsaicin challenge. We have also measured NGF levels in nasal lavage fluids at baseline and with allergen provocation in rhinitis and healthy subjects. RESULTS: Compared to healthy individuals, subjects with active allergic rhinitis were found to have (1) significantly greater sensitivity and reactivity of the sneezing reflex, (2) significantly greater secretory responsiveness to sensory nerve stimulation, and (3) significantly greater plasma extravasation indicated by albumin leakage following capsaicin nasal challenge. We also found that subjects with active allergic rhinitis have significantly greater baseline levels of NGF in nasal lavage fluids compared to their healthy counterparts, and that these levels can be increased by allergen nasal provocation. CONCLUSION: The responsiveness of the neural apparatus of the nose is significantly greater in patients with active allergic rhinitis. The increased presence of NGF in the nasal mucosa of these patients supports the hypothesis that this neurotrophin may be implicated in neural hyperresponsiveness.
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