ETSU researchers exploring treatments for loss of smell

Published 10:38 am Friday, September 2, 2022

NIH grant totaling more than $1.8 million awarded to Quillen College of Medicine professors
JOHNSON CITY – The smell of rain or the scent of a fresh pie baking are luxuries that not all people are able to experience.
The loss of the sense of smell has drawn attention in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, this problem can occur as a result of injury, certain disorders or aging, affecting the quality of life for millions of people.
A pair of researchers at East Tennessee State University’s Quillen College of Medicine has received a grant totaling more than $1.8 million over the next five years to study how the sense of smell is maintained and how it is repaired after injury.
Dr. Cuihong Jia and Dr. Diego Javier Rodriguez-Gil were awarded the R01 grant from the National Institute of Deafness and Communication Disorders, part of the National Institutes of Health. Their goal is to develop new treatment drugs that can help individuals regain their sense of smell.
“Olfactory deficits often do not recover in a substantial number of patients after several disorders, including chronic sinus inflammation, head trauma and viral infection of the nose, including SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19,” said Jia, assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences. “Unfortunately, no treatment is available. Further, the sense of smell declines in 50-75% of people age 65 to 80.”
The researchers hope their research will provide some relief to patients who experience a decline or lost sense of smell.
“Loss of the sense of smell compromises human health and life quality and is a major safety issue, such as detecting gas leaking and spoiled food,” said Rodriguez-Gil, associate professor in the Department of Biomedical Sciences. “The restoration of smell function following injury or in the elderly is a major challenge that is inadequately addressed.”
Jia and Rodriguez-Gil’s research will explore how the regenerative capacity of the olfactory stem cells, tissue that lines the nasal cavity, can be improved by regulating cell adhesion and trophic factor signaling to reconstitute the olfactory system and regain smell function following acute or chronic inflammation.
To find out more about the research taking place in ETSU’s Department of Biomedical Sciences, visit etsu.edu/com/dbms/.

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