Rudolph the Reindeer’s Red Nose

by Charles Bankhead Staff Writer, MedPage Today

An investigation into the origin of Rudolph the Reindeer’s red nose has ended the generations-old debate by uncovering an elusive but long-hypothesized scientific explanation: A snootful of red cells.

Detailed evaluation of adult reindeer’s nasal microcirculation revealed similarities with human nasal microvasculature, but also striking differences. Reindeer nasal microcirculation exhibited a highly vascularized nasal mucosa, a red cell-rich nasal septal mucosa, and a microvessel density 25% greater than that of humans.

The architecturally distinct nasal microvasculature confers on Rudolph a nose that “is red and well adapted to carrying out his duties in extreme temperatures,” as reported online in BMJ

“These results highlight the intrinsic physiological properties of Rudolph’s legendary luminous red nose, which help to protect it from freezing during sleigh rides and to regulate the temperature of the reindeer’s brain, factors essential for flying reindeer pulling Santa Claus’ sleigh under extreme temperatures,” Can Ince, PhD, of Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and co-authors wrote in conclusion. Review and posted by Dr. Russell

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