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New Study Uses Stem Cells to Restore Smell to Mice

An increasing amount of research is being undertaken to understand how stem cells can be used in many potential medical applications. Recently, a study has been undertaken to see if olfaction (the sense of smell) can be returned to mice who previously had none. The results of the study have been proven to be successful.

“This is the first model of smell loss showing evidence of recovery using a cell-based therapy,” said Bradley Goldstein of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, the senior study author. “It is very important to understand that many questions would need to be worked out before considering this in a human patient. However, it does provide evidence that such an approach warrants further study.”

This Research Could Find a Way for People With no or Little Sense of Smell to Have Their Sense of Smell Restored

Around one-in-ten people in the US have no sense of smell or suffer from impaired olfaction. There are many factors that can cause impaired olfaction, including deterioration due to age, damage due to viruses, trauma, and genetic disorders. Impaired olfaction is usually permanent as there are no reliable treatments.

The theory behind this latest research into stem-cell therapy was that the stem cells could create replacements for olfactory neurons. Goldstein and his team created a genetic mouse model that had no ability to detect odors, due to non-functional olfactory sensory neurons. Such cells have cilia, which are tiny, hair-like structures that detect smell. The mice were created without any cilia.

Stem Cells Caused New Neurons to Grow and Links to the Brain to be Created

Stem cells were then introduced into the nasal capacities of the mice. It was observed that the cells produced functional sensory neurons that sent axons to the brain linking the brain to the neuron. As a result, the sense of smell in the mice was restored.

“We were a bit surprised to find that cells could engraft fairly robustly with a simple nose drop delivery,” said Goldstein. “To be potentially useful in humans, the main hurdle would be to identify a source of cells capable of engrafting, differentiating into olfactory neurons, and properly connecting to the olfactory bulbs of the brain. Further, one would need to define what clinical situations might be appropriate, rather than the animal model of acute olfactory injury.”

If you would like to learn more about regenerative medicine techniques such as stem cell banking and platelet-rich plasma therapy, then our team here at the Michigan Center for Regenerative Medicine would be happy to speak to you. You can call us at (248) 216-1008, or use our online contact form.

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