Nearly 37 million Americans suffer from sinusitis each year. Some of these people will have chronic sinusitis, a common condition in which the cavities around the nasal passages become inflamed and swollen—lasting anywhere from 10 days to 8 weeks.

For most people who suffer stuffy noses and sinus pressure from head colds, their experience is at most uncomfortable because these symptoms last a few days. But for a few others, these symptoms don’t go away within few days. For those with chronic sinusitis, these symptoms may drag on for weeks, and in the worst cases, even months. Fortunately, scientists have stumbled upon a potentially new and effective therapy that might address one of the underlying factors associated with managing chronic sinusitis.

The researchers of a recent study developed a simple method to make molecules called low-molecular-weight, arginine-rich peptides from an already-approved drug compound called protamine. Peptides are a type of amino acid and can create antibodies to boost the body’s immune system. In the lab tests, researchers increased nitric oxide production in mouse immune cells and cells that line airways, making them a good candidate for further development of antibodies to boost the immune system.

Nitric oxide (NO) plays a critical role in your body’s immune system. Scientists found that that a peptide molecule from protamine plays an important role as an antimicrobial agent that helps prevent sinus infections. One reason people have chronic sinusitis is that low levels of NO are lodged in the nasal passages. The NO has been linked to trigger and exacerbate this condition in just small amounts. As you recall, sinusitis may make breathing through your nose difficult and can also lead to facial pain and headaches. One therapeutic approach could involve boosting NO levels, and for Mark E. Meyerhoff and colleagues, they want to further test the possibilities of NO improving chronic sinusitis in adults.

Addressing underlying factors that contribute and improve chronic sinusitis are keys to improving this condition.