London: Offering hope to people who can’t smell anything from birth or lose it due to disease, scientists have restored the sense of smell in mice through gene therapy for the first time.The achievement in curing congenital anosmia -- the medical term for lifelong inability to detect odours -- may also aid research on other conditions that also stem from problems with the cilia.Those tiny hair-shaped structures on the surfaces of cells throughout the body are involved in many diseases, from the kidneys to the eyes.The new findings come from a team at the University of Michigan Medical School and their colleagues at several other institutions.The researchers caution that it will take time for their work to affect human treatment, and that it will be most important for people who have lost their sense of smell due to a genetic disorder, rather than those who lose it due to aging, head trauma, or chronic sinus problems. But their work paves the way for a better understanding of anosmia at the cellular level.“Using gene therapy in a mouse model of cilia dysfunction, we were able to rescue and restore olfactory function, or sense of smell,” said senior author Jeffrey Martens, Ph.D., an associate professor of pharmacology at U-M.“Essentially, we induced the neurons that transmit the sense of smell to regrow the cilia they’d lost,” Martens explained.
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