People born without a sense of smell could enjoy their first aromas, after a scientific breakthrough. Researchers managed to reverse the problem in mice bred to have the human genetic disorder called congenital anosmia. They may be able to adapt the procedure to reverse loss of smell caused by ageing or disease.
The technique regrows parts of cells known as cilia that are essential for olfactory function, according to a study published online in Mature Medicine.
Dr James Battey, director of the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders (NIDCD) in the US, said: ‘These results could lead to one of the first therapeutic options for treating people with congenital anosmia.
‘They also set the stage for therapeutic approaches to treating diseases that involve cilia dysfunction in other organ systems, many of which can be fatal if left untreated.’
Cilia protrude from the surface of cells. Sensory defects, including blindness, and loss of hearing or smell may accompany these disorders.
Olfactory dysfunction can be a symptom of a newly recognised class of genetic disorders, known as ciliopathies which range from kidney to eye disease.
The disorders are caused by the antenna-like ‘cilia’ projections on cells that help them sense their environment.
Dr Jeffrey Martens, of the University of Michigan, and colleagues and colleagues found a mutation in on a protein called IFT88 is associated with human cilio conditions.
Mice deficient in this protein have shortened and malformed cilia on neurons within the nose and are unable to perceive odours.
But delivery of a virus expressing IFT88 into the nose of these mutant mice rescued cilia defects and the mice responded to odourous molecules.
The researchers also found the treatment restores suckling and feeding behaviours that are controlled by olfactory function in these mice. The study could raise hopes of reversing loss of smell…
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