Links for Keyword: Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste)

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Michael Marshall One treatment for survivors of COVID-19 who have lost their sense of smell is 'smell training', in which they relearn prescribed scents, such as those of roses and lemons.Credit: Christine E. Kelly Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, it emerged that many people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus were losing their sense of smell — even without displaying other symptoms. Researchers also discovered that infected people could lose their sense of taste and their ability to detect chemically triggered sensations such as spiciness, called chemesthesis. Almost a year later, some still haven’t recovered these senses, and for a proportion of people who have, odours are now warped: unpleasant scents have taken the place of normally delightful ones. Nature surveys the science behind this potentially long-lasting and debilitating phenomenon. How many people with COVID-19 lose their sense of smell? The exact percentage varies between studies, but most suggest that smell loss is a common symptom. One review published last June1 compiled data from 8,438 people with COVID-19, and found that 41% had reported experiencing smell loss. In another study, published in August2, a team led by researcher Shima T. Moein at the Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences in Tehran, Iran, administered a smell-identification test to 100 people with COVID-19 in which the subjects sniffed odours and identified them on a multiple-choice basis. Ninety-six per cent of the participants had some olfactory dysfunction, and 18% had total smell loss (otherwise known as anosmia). © 2021 Springer Nature Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27649 - Posted: 01.15.2021

By Roni Caryn Rabin Until March, when everything started tasting like cardboard, Katherine Hansen had such a keen sense of smell that she could recreate almost any restaurant dish at home without the recipe, just by recalling the scents and flavors. Then the coronavirus arrived. One of Ms. Hansen’s first symptoms was a loss of smell, and then of taste. Ms. Hansen still cannot taste food, and says she can’t even tolerate chewing it. Now she lives mostly on soups and shakes. “I’m like someone who loses their eyesight as an adult,” said Ms. Hansen, a realtor who lives outside Seattle. “They know what something should look like. I know what it should taste like, but I can’t get there.” A diminished sense of smell, called anosmia, has emerged as one of the telltale symptoms of Covid-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. It is the first symptom for some patients, and sometimes the only one. Often accompanied by an inability to taste, anosmia occurs abruptly and dramatically in these patients, almost as if a switch had been flipped. Most regain their senses of smell and taste after they recover, usually within weeks. But in a minority of patients like Ms. Hansen, the loss persists, and doctors cannot say when or if the senses will return. Scientists know little about how the virus causes persistent anosmia or how to cure it. But cases are piling up as the coronavirus sweeps across the world, and some experts fear that the pandemic may leave huge numbers of people with a permanent loss of smell and taste. The prospect has set off an urgent scramble among researchers to learn more about why patients are losing these essential senses, and how to help them. “Many people have been doing olfactory research for decades and getting little attention,” said Dr. Dolores Malaspina, professor of psychiatry, neuroscience, genetics and genomics at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. “Covid is just turning that field upside down.” © 2021 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27642 - Posted: 01.09.2021

Sam Wollaston A single-storey building in a lonely rural business park, a few miles from Milton Keynes on a grey autumn day. It looks like a location for a bleak thriller: where a kidnap victim is held, perhaps, or the scene of a final shootout. Inside, though, something kind of cool is happening. In a brightly lit room, four inverted metal cups have been placed on the red carpet, each containing a small glass jar. One of these contains a smell: a “training odour”. Into the room bursts Billy, followed by Jess. Billy is a labrador, and Jess his human trainer. Billy bounces about the place, clearly super excited. He sniffs at everything – furniture, people, the cups – wagging ferociously. When he sniffs at the cup that contains the smell, another trainer, Jayde, indicates success with a clicking noise. Billy is rewarded with his favourite toy, a well-chewed rubber ball, and a chorus of “good boy”. So far, so unremarkable. Dogs have excellent noses, everyone knows that. They are estimated to be at least 10,000 times better than ours. It’s not immediately clear just how good Billy is. Did he really find the smell, or did Jayde just click when he sniffed the right cup? To be fair to Billy, he’s young, 18 months old, and this is only his second session. The trainers – Jess, Jayde and Mark – have high hopes for him. And after a couple more goes, it becomes clear that he is definitely finding the right cup, quickly. He is also clearly enjoying the game. What Billy lacks in refinement, he makes up for in youthful enthusiasm and exuberance, and he learns fast. Which is good news: this is just the first stage for Billy, who is on a fast-track training course to learn to sniff out Covid-19. He’s not working with the actual virus, of course, but a training sample, which will teach him to do that job. © 2020 Guardian News & Media Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27622 - Posted: 12.12.2020

By Jason Castro To be an expectant mother, or the anxious partner of one, is to be keenly, even agonizingly aware of how chemicals affect a developing life. The basic advice is well known, and obsessively followed: Alcohol in strict moderation, and no nicotine at all. Don’t mess with mercury. Folic acid is your friend. More protein and less caffeine. Stay away from BPA, PBCs and PFA, and generally make an enemy of the unpronounceable. But, if we take the results of a provocative recent paper seriously, there may be another important, and deeply underappreciated chemical influence at work: a man’s odor. The research, by a team headed by Noam Sobel of the Weizmann Institute of Science, suggests that there is a relationship between women’s response to “social odors” contained in male sweat and the heartbreaking condition of unexplained repeated pregnancy loss (uRPL). Specifically, in blind smell-tests, these scientists observed that women who had experienced uRPL were significantly better at identifying their spouse’s odor than age-matched controls. Additionally, their brains responded differently to nonspouse odors and they displayed unique olfactory neuroanatomy. Taken in the context of a large body of literature on chemosignaling in nonhuman animals, these results make it conceivable that the human nose could also communicate with the womb and may even influence a pregnancy. So far, the results are strictly correlative, and in no way point to male odor as some kind of pheromonal smoking gun that explains pregnancy loss. Hypothetically, it could also be true that women experiencing uRPL have, on average, larger middle toes, larger whites of their eyes, thinner wrists and a proclivity for wearing purple socks. None of these would give one pause or prompt a serious search for some kind of causal link to pregnancy loss. Yet this particular link between smell and pregnancy loss is intriguing because of how prevalent and robust it is in other mammals, including primates. Many miscarriages still have unexplained causes, which makes any lead, correlative or not, a particularly interesting and worthwhile area of research. © 2020 Scientific American

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 12: Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 27619 - Posted: 12.09.2020

David Cox Seven years ago, rhinology surgeon Peter Andrews found himself performing an operation that would go on to change the course of his career. Andrews was operating on a patient who had broken his nose many decades earlier after being struck by a cricket ball. The procedure was delicate: straightening the septum – the thin wall of cartilage that separates the nostrils – and in the process improving his breathing, which had become more laboured in later life. But it had a surprising outcome. As well being able to breathe more freely, Andrews’s patient found he could smell again for the first time in 40 years, a remarkable turn of events that provided the medical community with a new insight into our sense of smell, and its capacity to regenerate. Being able to smell is actually a result of a complex neurological process. Smell-specific nerve cells known as olfactory neurons, located high in the nasal cavity, detect molecules in the air such as those released by a perfume, or smoke particles from something burning. They then convey this information via a long nerve fibre running up through the skull, to a part of the brain that makes sense of it all. This network is one of the most adaptable in the entire central nervous system. To keep functioning, it completely regenerates every six weeks, shedding existing olfactory neurons, and creating new ones from scratch. “That’s quite a feat in itself, because those neurons then have to reconnect up into the brain tissue,” says Andrews. But sometimes things can happen that impair its ability to regenerate. An estimated 5% of the general population is believed to have anosmia, the medical term for temporary or permanent smell loss. Anosmia can occur as part of the ageing process, but also in those of all ages due to factors ranging from broken noses to viral infections. © 2020 Guardian News & Media Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27618 - Posted: 12.09.2020

Terry Gross Food science writer Harold McGee was in the middle of writing Nose Dive, his book about the science of smell, when he woke up one morning and realized that he couldn't smell his own coffee. Loss of smell has since become associated with COVID-19. In McGee's case, it was the byproduct of a sinus infection. McGee remembers feeling panicked. "I have friends in the kind of clinical side of taste and smell research. And so I immediately contacted them to find out what I could do and why this had happened," he says. "And they basically said, 'You're going to have to wait and see.' " Over the course of a few months, McGee's sense of smell gradually returned. But he still remembers what it was like to live in an odorless world. "It's the kind of thing where you don't notice something until it's gone," he says. "I spent less and less time cooking. There was no point in going out to restaurants because I wasn't really going to enjoy it." McGee's new book is about how smell is essential to our sense of taste, why things smell the way they do and the ways different chemicals combine to create surprising (and sometimes distasteful) odors. "One of the great pleasures of delving into smells in general was discovering over and over again that things that we enjoy in foods are actually found elsewhere in the world," he says. "And in as unlikely places as cat pee and human sweat, for example." © 2020 npr

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27583 - Posted: 11.16.2020

By Jonathan Lambert Octopus arms have minds of their own. Each of these eight supple yet powerful limbs can explore the seafloor in search of prey, snatching crabs from hiding spots without direction from the octopus’ brain. But how each arm can tell what it’s grasping has remained a mystery. Now, researchers have identified specialized cells not seen in other animals that allow octopuses to “taste” with their arms. Embedded in the suckers, these cells enable the arms to do double duty of touch and taste by detecting chemicals produced by many aquatic creatures. This may help an arm quickly distinguish food from rocks or poisonous prey, Harvard University molecular biologist Nicholas Bellono and his colleagues report online October 29 in Cell. The findings provide another clue about the unique evolutionary path octopuses have taken toward intelligence. Instead of being concentrated in the brain, two-thirds of the nerve cells in an octopus are distributed among the arms, allowing the flexible appendages to operate semi-independently (SN: 4/16/15). “There was a huge gap in knowledge of how octopus [arms] actually collect information about their environment,” says Tamar Gutnick, a neurobiologist who studies octopuses at Hebrew University of Jerusalem who was not involved in the study. “We’ve known that [octopuses] taste by touch, but knowing it and understanding how it’s actually working is a very different thing.” Working out the specifics of how arms sense and process information is crucial for understanding octopus intelligence, she says. “It’s really exciting to see someone taking a comprehensive look at the cell types involved,” and how they work. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2020

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27560 - Posted: 10.31.2020

By Katherine J. Wu Researchers in Iceland have identified a new mutant superpower — but the genetic trait probably won’t be granting anyone admission to the X-Men. A small contingent of the world’s population carries a mutation that makes them immune to the odious funk that wafts off fish, according to a study of some 11,000 people published Thursday in the journal Current Biology. The trait is rare, but potent: When faced with a synthetic odor that would put many people off their lunch, some test subjects smelled only the pleasant aroma of caramel, potato or rose. The vast majority of people aren’t so lucky. Nearly 98 percent of Icelanders, the research said, are probably as put off by the scent as you’d expect. The mutation is thought to be even rarer in populations in other countries. “I can assure you I do not have this mutation,” said Dr. Kári Stefánsson, a neurologist and the study’s senior author. “I tend to get nauseated when I get close to fish that is not completely fresh.” Dr. Stefánsson is the founder and chief executive of deCODE genetics, a biopharmaceutical company in Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, which has been parsing the human genome for several decades. The team’s latest caper involved a deep dive into the underappreciated sense of olfaction. Study participants were asked to take a whiff of six Sniffin’ Sticks — pens imbued with synthetic odors resembling the recognizable scents of cinnamon, peppermint, banana, licorice, lemon and fish. They were asked to identify the smell, then rate its intensity and pleasantness. The older the study subjects were, the more they struggled to accurately pinpoint the scents. That’s unsurprising, given that sensory functions tend to decline later in life, said Rósa Gísladóttir, the study’s lead author. But even younger people didn’t always hit the mark, she said. The lemon and banana sticks, for instance, prompted descriptions of gummy bears and other candy-sweet smells. © 2020 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27519 - Posted: 10.10.2020

By Ian Randall It’s one of life’s little ironies: Sweet foods get sweeter when you add a little salt. Now, scientists may have provided connoisseurs of salted caramel and grapefruit with the reason this culinary trick is worth its salt. Your ability to savor food comes from the receptor cells in your tongue’s taste buds. Sweet tastes are detected by a family of receptors called T1R, which pick up both natural sugars and artificial sweeteners. Scientists originally thought disabling the T1R family would stop any responses to sweet stimuli. But in 2003, researchers showed that mice whose T1R genes had been genetically “knocked out” still liked the sugar glucose. The finding suggested there must be another way that mice—and possibly humans—sense sweetness. Seeking an explanation, physiologist Keiko Yasumatsu of Tokyo Dental Junior College and colleagues turned to a protein that works with glucose elsewhere in the body: sodium-glucose cotransporter 1 (SGLT1). In the kidneys and intestine, SGLT1 uses sodium to carry glucose into cells to provide them with energy. Curiously, the protein is also found in sweet-responsive taste cells. The researchers rubbed the tongues of unconscious T1R mice with a solution of glucose and salt—which contains the sodium SGLT1 needs to work—and recorded the responses of nerves connected to their taste cells. The salt seemed to make all the difference: It caused the rodents’ nerves to fire more rapidly, compared with mutated mice given only glucose. Conscious mice also seemed to show a preference for the sugar-salt solution. But this only worked with glucose; sweeteners like saccharin didn’t trigger a response. © 2020 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27510 - Posted: 10.07.2020

Jon Henley Europe correspondent Four Covid-19 sniffer dogs have begun work at Helsinki airport in a state-funded pilot scheme that Finnish researchers hope will provide a cheap, fast and effective alternative method of testing people for the virus. A dog is capable of detecting the presence of the coronavirus within 10 seconds and the entire process takes less than a minute to complete, according to Anna Hielm-Björkman of the University of Helsinki, who is overseeing the trial. “It’s very promising,” said Hielm-Björkman. “If it works, it could prove a good screening method in other places” such as hospitals, care homes and at sporting and cultural events. After collecting their luggage, arriving international passengers are asked to dab their skin with a wipe. In a separate booth, the beaker containing the wipe is then placed next to others containing different control scents – and the dog starts sniffing. If it indicates it has detected the virus – usually by yelping, pawing or lying down – the passenger is advised to take a free standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test, using a nasal swab, to verify the dog’s verdict. In the university’s preliminary tests, dogs – which have been successfully used to detect diseases such as cancer and diabetes – were able to identify the virus with nearly 100% accuracy, even days before before a patient developed symptoms. Scientists are not yet sure what exactly it is that the dogs sniff when they detect the virus. A French study published in June concluded that there was “very high evidence” that the sweat odour of Covid-positive people was different to that of those who did not have the virus, and that dogs could detect that difference. Dogs are also able to identify Covid-19 from a much smaller molecular sample than PCR tests, Helsinki airport said, needing only 10-100 molecules to detect the presence of the virus compared with the 18m needed by laboratory equipment. © 2020 Guardian News & Media Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27490 - Posted: 09.25.2020

By Carolyn Wilke Taste buds can turn food from mere fuel into a memorable meal. Now researchers have discovered a set of supersensing cells in the taste buds of mice that can detect four of the five flavors that the buds recognize. Bitter, sweet, sour and umami — these cells can catch them all. That’s a surprise because it’s commonly thought that taste cells are very specific, detecting just one or two flavors. Some known taste cells respond to only one compound, for instance, detecting sweet sucralose or bitter caffeine. But the new results suggest that a far more complicated process is at work. When neurophysiologist Debarghya Dutta Banik and colleagues turned off the sensing abilities of more specific taste cells in mice, the researchers were startled to find other cells responding to flavors. Pulling those cells out of the rodents’ taste buds and giving them a taste of several compounds revealed a group of cells that can sense multiple chemicals across different taste classes, the team reports August 13 in PLOS Genetics. “We never expected that any population of [taste] cells would respond to so many different compounds,” says Dutta Banik, of the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis. But taste cells don’t respond to flavors in insolation; the brain and the tongue work together as tastemakers (SN: 11/24/15). So the scientists monitored the brain to see if it received bitter, sweet or umami signals when mice lacked a key protein needed for these broadly tasting cells to relay information. Those observations revealed that without the protein, the brain didn’t get the flavor messages, which was also shown when mice slurped bitter solutions as though they were water even though the rodents hate bitter tastes, says Dutta Banik, who did the work at the University at Buffalo in New York. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2020.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27419 - Posted: 08.15.2020

Ian Sample Science editor Scientists have unravelled the mysterious mechanism behind the armpit’s ability to produce the pungent smell of body odour. Researchers at the University of York traced the source of underarm odour to a particular enzyme in a certain microbe that lives in the human armpit. To prove the enzyme was the chemical culprit, the scientists transferred it to an innocent member of the underarm microbe community and noted – to their delight – that it too began to emanate bad smells. The work paves the way for more effective deodorants and antiperspirants, the scientists believe, and suggests that humans may have inherited the mephitic microbes from our ancient primate ancestors. “We’ve discovered how the odour is produced,” said Prof Gavin Thomas, a senior microbiologist on the team. “What we really want to understand now is why.” Humans do not produce the most pungent constituents of BO directly. The offending odours, known as thioalcohols, are released as a byproduct when microbes feast on other compounds they encounter on the skin. The York team previously discovered that most microbes on the skin cannot make thioalcohols. But further tests revealed that one armpit-dwelling species, Staphylococcus hominis, was a major contributor. The bacteria produce the fetid fumes when they consume an odourless compound called Cys-Gly-3M3SH, which is released by sweat glands in the armpit. Advertisement Humans come with two types of sweat glands. Eccrine glands cover the body and open directly onto the skin. They are an essential component of the body’s cooling system. Apocrine glands, on the other hand, open into hair follicles, and are crammed into particular places: the armpits, nipples and genitals. Their role is not so clear. © 2020 Guardian News & Media Limited

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 12: Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 27390 - Posted: 07.29.2020

Edmund Chong When you experience something with your senses, it evokes complex patterns of activity in your brain. One important goal in neuroscience is to decipher how these neural patterns drive the sensory experience. For example, can the smell of chocolate be represented by a single brain cell, groups of cells firing all at the same time or cells firing in some precise symphony? The answers to these questions will lead to a broader understanding of how our brains represent the external world. They also have implications for treating disorders where the brain fails in representing the external world: for example, in the loss of sight of smell. To understand how the brain drives sensory experience, my colleagues and I focus on the sense of smell in mice. We directly control a mouse’s neural activity, generating “synthetic smells” in the olfactory part of its brain in order to learn more about how the sense of smell works. Our latest experiments discovered that scents are represented by very specific patterns of activity in the brain. Like the notes of a melody, the cells fire in a unique sequence with particular timing to represent the sensation of smelling a unique odor. Using mice to study smell is appealing to researchers because the relevant brain circuits have been mapped out, and modern tools allow us to directly manipulate these brain connections. © 2010–2020, The Conversation US, Inc.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27352 - Posted: 07.08.2020

By Bret Stetka How do humans and other animals distinguish between the smell of rotting seafood or the enticing allure of a ripe banana? New research at New York University Langone Health and their colleagues uses artificially created odors to help reveal the intricate chain of events that allow one odor to be distinguished from another. The results were published today in Science. In the deep recesses of the nose are millions of sensory neurons that, along with our eyes and ears, help conjure the world around us. When stimulated by a chemical with a smell, or an odorant, they send nerve impulses to thousands of clusters of neurons in the glomeruli, which make up the olfactory bulb, the brain’s smell center. Different patterns of glomerular activation are known to generate the sensation of specific odors. Firing one set of glomeruli elicits the perception of pineapples; firing another evokes pickles. Unlike other sensations, such as sight and hearing, scientists do not know which qualities of a particular smell are used by the brain to perceive it. When you see a person’s face, you may remember the eyes, which helps you recognize that individual in the future. But the ears and nose might be less important in how the brain represents that person. The authors of the new study sought to identify distinguishing features involved in forming the representation of odors in the brain. To do so, they used a technique called optogenetics to activate glomeruli in mice. Optogenetics uses light to stimulate specific neurons in the brain. And it can help determine the function of particular brain regions. © 2020 Scientific American

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27315 - Posted: 06.22.2020

By Laura Sanders Scientists have implanted an artificial odor directly in the brains of mice. It doesn’t mean that mental Smell-O-Vision technology is coming soon. But the results, published June 18 in Science, deliver clues to how the brain processes information. Details about the synthetic smell may help answer “fundamental questions in olfaction,” says computational biologist Saket Navlakha of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, who wasn’t involved in the study. Studies on the senses offer a window into how brains shape signals from the outside world into perceptions, and how those perceptions can guide behavior (SN: 7/18/19). To build artificial smells in mice’s brains, researchers used optogenetics, a technique in which light prods genetically engineered nerve cells to fire signals (SN: 1/15/10). Neuroscientist Dima Rinberg of New York University’s Grossman School of Medicine and colleagues targeted nerve cells in mice’s olfactory bulbs. There, clusters of nerve endings called glomeruli organize the smell signals picked up in the nose. Like playing a short ditty on a piano, Rinberg and colleagues activated nerve cells in six spots (each of which might include between one and three glomeruli) in a certain order. This neural melody was designed to be a simplified version of how a real odor might play those nerve cells. (It’s not known what the artificial odor actually smells like to a mouse.) © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2020.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27312 - Posted: 06.19.2020

By Laura Sanders The virus responsible for COVID-19 can steal a person’s sense of smell, leaving them noseblind to fresh-cut grass, a pungent meal or even their own stale clothes. But so far, details remain elusive about how SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19, can infiltrate and shut down the body’s smelling machinery. One recent hint comes from a young radiographer who lost her sense of smell. She had signs of viral infection in her brain. Other studies, though, have not turned up signs of the virus in the brain. Contradictory evidence means that no one knows whether SARS-CoV-2 can infect nerve cells in the brain directly, and if so, whether the virus’s route to the brain can sometimes start in the nose. Understanding how people’s sense of smell is harmed (SN: 5/11/20), a symptom estimated to afflict anywhere between 20 and 80 percent of people with COVID-19, could reveal more about how the virus operates. One thing is certain so far, though: The virus can steal the sense of smell in a way that’s not normal. “There’s something unusual about the relationship between COVID-19 and smell,” says neuroscientist Sandeep Robert Datta of Harvard Medical School in Boston. Colds can prevent smelling by stuffing the nose up with mucus. But SARS-CoV-2 generally leaves the nose clear. “Lots of people are complaining about losing their sense of smell when they don’t feel stuffed up at all,” Datta says. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2020.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27302 - Posted: 06.13.2020

­­Researchers at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a part of the National Institutes of Health, have identified a specific, front-line defense that limits the infection to the olfactory bulb and protects the neurons of the olfactory bulb from damage due to the infection. Neurons in the nose respond to inhaled odors and send this information to a region of the brain referred to as the olfactory bulb. Although the location of nasal neurons and their exposure to the outside environment make them an easy target for infection by airborne viruses, viral respiratory infections rarely make their way from the olfactory bulb to the rest of the brain, where they could cause potentially fatal encephalitis. The study was published in Science Immunology. Taking advantage of special viruses that can be tracked with fluorescent microscopy, the researchers led by Dorian McGavern, Ph.D., senior investigator at NINDS, found that a viral infection that started in the nose was halted right before it could spread from the olfactory bulb to the rest of the central nervous system. “Airborne viruses challenge our immune system all the time, but rarely do we see viral infections leading to neurological conditions,” said Dr. McGavern. “This means that the immune system within this area has to be remarkably good at protecting the brain.” Additional experiments showed that microglia, immune cells within the central nervous system, took on an underappreciated role of helping the immune system recognize the virus and did so in a way that limited the damage to neurons themselves. This sparing of neurons is critical, because unlike cells in most other tissues, most neuronal populations do not come back.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress; Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27287 - Posted: 06.06.2020

By Tina Hesman Saey A loss of smell and taste may be one of the clearest indicators of whether someone has COVID-19, a new study suggests. Researchers gleaned the information from nearly 2.5 million people in the United Kingdom and about 170,000 people in the United States who entered whether they were feeling well or experiencing symptoms into a smartphone app from March 24 to April 21. Some of the app users also reported results of PCR diagnostic tests for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19 (SN: 3/6/20). Nearly 65 percent of roughly 6,400 U.K. residents who tested positive for the virus described a loss of taste and smell as a symptom, researchers report May 11 in Nature Medicine. And just over 67 percent of the 726 U.S. participants with a positive test also reported losing those senses. Only about 20 percent of all people who tested negative had diminished smell and taste. Using data from the app, a team of scientists led by clinical researchers Claire Steves and Tim Spector, both of King’s College London, devised a formula for determining which symptoms best predict COVID-19. A combination of loss of taste and smell, extreme fatigue, cough and loss of appetite was the best predictor of having a positive result from the PCR test, the team found. Based on those symptoms, the researchers estimate that more than 140,000 of the more than 800,000 app users who reported symptoms probably have COVID-19. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2020.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27241 - Posted: 05.12.2020

By Michelle Roberts Health editor, BBC News online A loss of smell or taste may be a sign that you have coronavirus, according to UK researchers. A team at King's College London looked at responses from more than 400,000 people reporting suspected Covid-19 symptoms to an app. But loss of smell and taste are also signs of other respiratory infections, such as the common cold. And experts say fever and cough remain the most important symptoms of the virus to look out for and act upon. If you or someone you live with has a new continuous cough or high temperature, the advice is stay at home to stop the risk of spreading coronavirus to others. Coronavirus: What should I do? What did the study find? The King's College researchers wanted to gather information on possible coronavirus symptoms to help experts better understand and fight the disease. Of those reporting one or more symptoms of coronavirus to the Covid Symptom Tracker app: 53% said they had fatigue or tiredness 29% persistent cough 28% shortness of breath 18% loss of sense of smell or taste 10.5% suffered from fever Of these 400,000 people, 1,702 said they had been tested for Covid-19, with 579 receiving a positive result and 1,123 a negative one. Among the ones who had coronavirus infection confirmed by a positive test, three-fifths (59%) reported loss of smell or taste. © 2020 BBC

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27157 - Posted: 04.01.2020

By Erin Garcia de Jesus Myriad microbes dwell on human tongues — and scientists have now gotten a glimpse at the neighborhoods that bacteria build for themselves. Bacteria grow in thick films, with different types of microbes clustered in patches around individual cells on the tongue’s surface, researchers report online March 24 in Cell Reports. This pattern suggests individual bacterial cells first attach to the tongue cell’s surface and then grow in layers as they form larger clusters — creating miniature environments the different species need to thrive. “It’s amazing, the complexity of the community that they build right there on your tongue,” says Jessica Mark Welch, a microbiologist at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass. Methods to identify microbial communities typically hunt for genetic fingerprints from various types of bacteria (SN: 11/05/09). The techniques can reveal what lives on the tongue, but not how the bacterial community is organized in space, Mark Welch says. So she and her colleagues had people scrape the top of their tongues with plastic scrapers. Then the team tagged various types of bacteria in the tongue gunk with differently colored fluorescent markers to see how the microbial community was structured. Bacterial cells, largely grouped by type in a thick, densely packed biofilm, covered each tongue surface cell. While the overall patchwork appearance of the microbial community was consistent among cells from different samples and people, the specific composition of bacteria varied, Mark Welch says. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2020.

Related chapters from BN: Chapter 9: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell
Link ID: 27141 - Posted: 03.25.2020