In mice, itch receptors discovered in the throat can contribute to airway hypersensitivity and constriction and if human airways behave the same way, researchers may someday be able to develop better treatments for asthma.

In a report on the study, published Feb 5 in Nature Neuroscience, researchers say the biochemical receptor—known as a G protein-coupled receptor—was present on nerve cells in the lower respiratory tracts of lab mice.

Researchers were inspired to study “itchiness” in the airway by asthma patients who reported the sensation in their lungs just prior to full-blown asthma symptoms such as wheezing.