Cultured stem cells reconstruct sensory nerve and tissue structure in the nose
A team of researchers developed a method to grow and maintain olfactory stem cells in culture, which can then be used to restore tissue in the nose. The discovery raises hope that future therapies could be developed to restore the sense of smell in individuals where it has been damaged by injury or degeneration.
The stem cells, called horizontal basal cells (HBCs), can repopulate all olfactory epithelium (OE) cell types, including sensory neurons, when transplanted into injured tissue. Published today in the journal Stem Cell Reports, the development paves the way for further research into stem cell transplantation therapies, or pharmacological approaches that stimulate stem cells within the nose to regenerate tissue.
The nerves that confer the sense of smell are unique when compared to the rest of the nervous system, in that they can trigger a robust and nearly complete regenerative response after injury. OE tissue contains two types of stem cells — globose basal cells (GBCs) and HBCs. The GBCs have been successfully cultured and appear to have a primary role in repopulating cells that have been lost to routine turnover. HBCs, however, remain dormant and are not activated until there is an injury. Unfortunately, studies on these cells have been limited by the fact that they could not be expanded and maintained in culture. In this study, the researchers determined the optimal conditions for expanding and maintaining healthy HBC stem cells in culture, borrowing methods and factors used to maintain respiratory stem cells.