Almost half a decade ago, scientists were suspicious about the capacity to restore lost sense of smell in humans. The significance of this thought has been gaining momentum in the post-Covid period that witnessed patients suffering from a loss of smell.
Studies have been going on for many years regarding the power of olfactory cells to regenerate and replenish themselves. Though there is no solid evidence, it is clear that once the cells in the nose get destroyed, new cells are formed that restore connection with the brain and bring back the sense of smell.
The scientific community has been digging deeper into the whereabouts of olfactory nerves and their real capacity. It has been more than a decade since they found that the olfactory nerves in the mammalian nose differ from the other nerves in the body. While other nerves are destroyed by cell destruction, olfactory nerves die and are replaced by a whole new population of nerves. This finding is the root of everything related to the restoration of the sense of smell.
One such early study was conducted by P.P.C. Graziadei and J.F. Metcalf of Florida State University. They worked on olfactory nerve regeneration in mammals and found that new cells replace the damaged cells. These fresh cells send their filaments into the olfactory bulb located in the brain to restore synaptic connections.
In the context of the post-COVID situation, several experimental studies have been going on across the world to find a solution to support olfactory healing in people who were diagnosed with COVID-19 and lost their sense of smell.
Amid this urgency, a technique called smell training or olfactory training has been gaining prominence as it has been said to have positive effects. Though this is the case, questions remain on how this method works and for whom.
The only information available is that this technique is all about regularly and deeply smelling different scents. It is said that this will help restore the cells’ connection with the brain or generate a new set of cells. Scientist Thomas Hummel of the Technische Universität Dresden said that it has no side effects but unfortunately works only in some people.
He also added that it requires patience, discipline, and stamina to do it correctly to get results. There are just a few thoughts on how this technique might be working. Scientists say that it might be focusing people’s attention on faint smells, targeting the growth of replacement cells, or strengthening some pathways in the brain.
Hummel also added that certain studies conducted in animals found that this method helps elevate the number of olfactory sensory neurons in the nose. Experts also suggest treatment with blood plasma and steroids. Treatment with omega-3 supplements, vitamins A and E, and growth factors are also coming under scrutiny. These aspects might support the recovery of the nasal epithelium.
Several other similar treatments are also getting attention. These include epithelial transplants for improving the health of olfactory stem cells and the use of platelet-rich plasma to reduce inflammation and support healing. Yet another approach is an electronic nose that will identify odor molecules and stimulate the brain cells. The great idea for this system was derived from cochlear implants for hearing support and retinal implants for vision health.
The latest technology and advancements in the medical field are sure to bring a permanent solution to restoring the lost sense of smell. Experts say that the remedy is just one arm away.