Using pharmacological magnetic resonance imaging, we have performed an in vivo evaluation of the secretory response induced by essential oils in the rat airway. Aim of the work was to establish a computerized method to assess the efficacy of volatile compounds in spatially localized areas without the bias derived by subjective evaluation. Magnetic resonance experiments were carried out using a 4.7 T horizontal magnet. In the trachea, airway surface fluid was easily identified for its high intensity signal. The tracheal glands were also easily visible. The oesophageal lumen was usually collapsed and was identifiable only in the presence of intraluminal liquid. Scotch pine essential oil inhalation significantly increased the surface fluid in the middle portion of the trachea and the increase was visible at both 5 and 10 min. A lesser secretory response was detected after rosemary essential oil inhalation even though the response was significant with respect to the control in particular at 10 min. No secretory response was detected after peppermint essential oil inhalation both at 5 and 10 min. The data obtained in the present work demonstrate a chemically induced airway secretion. The availability of a pharmacological magnetic resonance imaging approach opens new perspectives to test the action of volatile compounds on the airway.
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