Specialists win award to examine why COVID-19 patients lose their feeling of smell

Specialists win award to examine why COVID-19 patients lose their feeling of smell


  • Post By : Kumar Jeetendra

  • Source: University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus

  • Date: 22 Jul,2020

“The virus frequently begins in the nose prior to making its way to the lungs,” stated Diego Restrepo, PhD, professor of developmental and cell biology in the University of Colorado School of Medicine whose lab won the $125,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health late last month. “We believe this may spark an inflammatory response that releases cytokines which consequently silence olfactory sensory nerves in the nose”

Scientists have found that the key neurological indication of Covid-19 is loss of odor without significant nasal congestion. It is frequently one of the first signs of the infection. That’s led some to believe that the virus targets the senses in a way that other viruses don’t.

There is a hypothesis that microvilli, which are protrusions on the cellular membrane, are involved in the detection of the virus and that they start an immune inflammatory response,” Restrepo said. “Is that good or bad?”-Diego Restrepo, PhD, Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology, University of Colorado School of Medicine

Restrepo and co-investigator Maria Nagel, MD, professor of neurology and ophthalmology at the CU School of Medicine, will use human olfactory epithelium cultures to research how the novel coronavirus might change the cells and cells that detect stimuli and make perception.

The group will explore whether manipulating a important chemosensory protein called TRPM5 can either inhibit or stimulate a virally-induced inflammatory cascade. Then they are going to test whether the FDA-approved medication flufenamic acid alters inflammation and viral infection of the olfactory epithelium.
In most patients, the sense of smell contributes to about two weeks but at a subset of these infected, it persists for months due to what scientists believe is damage to the olfactory sensory neurons responsible for detecting scents.
“A fascinating feature of this job is that we are elucidating mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 infection of olfactory neurons that may shed light on the way the virus and associated inflammation can affect neurons inside the mind,” Nagel said. “This is particularly important because both neurological complications related to Covid-19 continue to emerge.”

These insights will offer a much better window into how the virus works.

“We believe that figuring out just how the virus attacks the neurons connected with smell will help us better understand how it acts,” Restrepo said. “And that could finally lead to better treatments in the future”


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