Gene Therapy Can Restore Sense of Smell

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Gene Therapy Can Restore Sense of Smell

Scientists of the University of Michigan developed a gene therapy which they claimed could restore the sense of smell in human beings who lost the ability to sniff odours from birth. The scientists used gene therapy to regrow cilia, cell structures that are important for olfactory function.

These results could result in to one of the first therapeutic options for treating people with congenital anosmia. They also set the stage for therapeutic approaches to treating diseases which involve cilia dysfunction in other organ systems. Many of these diseases can be dangerous if left untreated. Olfactory dysfunction can be a symptom of a class of genetic disorders, known as ciliopathies. It includes diseases as diverse as polycystic kidney disease and retinitis pigmentosa – an inherited, degenerative eye disease – that causes severe vision impairment and blindness.

The disorders are caused by defects in cilia, antenna-like projections on cells that help them sense their environment. Scientists believe that nearly every cell in the body has the capacity to grow one or more cilia. In the olfactory system, multiple cilia project from olfactory sensory neurons, sensory cells that are found in the olfactory epithelium, tissue high up in the nasal cavity.

Receptors that bind odorants are localised on the cilia, which is why a loss of cilia results in a loss in the ability to smell. The researchers worked with a mouse model carrying a mutation in the IFT88 gene.

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