Researchers from University of Michigan Medical School, along
with the help of other universities, have published a report on
Nature Medicine about gene therapy helping people restore the
sense of smell.
The mice they used for the study are those with a genetic defect
that results in having less amounts of microscopic hairs in their
body (cilia) that they rely on for detecting chemicals in the
air. Microscopic cilia are sticking out from numerous cells in
their body and even simple damages on them can be severely
harmful for the rat. But if losing the sense of smell for mice
could bring poor feeding habits and lead to death, for humans
this can be equally fatal.
To do the experiment, scientists planted the genes into cells of
the mice through a common cold virus that contains many normal
DNA, enabling it to infect cells easily. It was then injected
into the nose of the mice for 3 consecutive days. Two weeks after
they were given the 3-day treatment, researchers discovered that
the mice have gained weight by 60%, lending proof that feeding
habits improved. For scam prevention, they verified that the
neurons of the mice are working properly when exposed to banana
oil (amyl acetate).
«At the molecular level, function that had been absent was
restored. The scientists say that almost all cells in the body
have the ability to grow one or more cilia...When loss of smell
occurs, receptors the connect odorants are restrained on the
cilia, resulting the loss of cilia, and the loss of sense of
smell,» said one of the researchers.
However, it will take more studies for this to be applicable to
humans who have lost their ability to smell due to medical
conditions (though for people who cannot smell because of old age
or nose trauma, this treatment is believed to be inapplicable).
Professor Philip Beales of the University College London who was
also involved in the research said, «It is a proof of concept
that has shown we can get that gene back into these cells,
produce the right protein, produce cilia and function as
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