Author Interviews, Fertility, OBGYNE / 30.09.2020 Interview with: Dr. Liron Rozenkrantz Postdoctoral Fellow Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Program in Placebo Studies, Harvard Medical School Former PhD student at Human Olfaction Research group, Department of Neurobiology Weizmann Institute of Science Reut Weissgross Research student Human Olfaction Research group, Department of Neurobiology Weizmann Institute of Science What is the background for this study? Response: A pregnancy loss is not such a rare event as you would think: it is estimated that about 50% of all conceptions (or 15% of the documented pregnancies) end in spontaneous miscarriage. About 1-2% of all couples trying to conceive will experience recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL), meaning 2-3 consecutive miscarriages, and despite going through numerous clinical investigations (hormonal tests, genetics and so) - about half of these cases will remain unexplained. This devastating phenomenon leaves couples with no explanation as to why they cannot bear a child. While most research in this field is focused on the reproductive organs (mainly the uterus), hormones and genes, we set out to look for new possible routes. The literature regarding the tight connection between olfaction and reproduction, mainly by social body-odors (or pheromones), is heavily documented, especially in rodents. Body-odors emitted from males affect pubertal development of juvenile female rodents and estrus cycle, and females body odors affect other females’ fertility state. The most robust phenomenon in this relation is the Bruce effect, in which pregnant female mice who are exposed to body-odors from a non-stud male - will experience impanation failure in 80% of exposures! Since there is growing evidence for the involvement of the olfactory system in human reproduction, we asked whether the olfactory system is also involved in human reproductive disorders such as unexplained recurrent pregnancy loss (uRPL). To answer this question, we recruited 40 women experiencing uRPL and 57 matched controls (who never experienced a miscarriage, and are at similar age to the uRPL women), and compared their olfactory profile, mainly in response to men’s body-odors. (more…)
Author Interviews, COVID -19 Coronavirus, ENT / 15.04.2020 Interview with: Ahmad R. Sedaghat, MD, PhD, FACS Associate Professor Department of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery University of Cincinnati College of Medicine Cincinnati, OH, USA What is the background for this study? Response: The novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19 infects the respiratory tract.  As a rhinologist, I am an expert in diseases of the nose and paranasal sinuses, and as the nose and paranasal sinuses (sinonasal cavities) are a major component of the upper airway, we decided to do a systematic review of the scientific literature on the role of the sinonasal cavities in COVID-19. (more…)
Allergies, Asthma, Author Interviews, ENT / 23.03.2020 Interview with: Joseph Han, MD FARS, FAAOA FAAAAI Medical Director for the Division of Allergy Eastern Virginia Medical School What is the background for this study? Response: Chronic rhinosinusitis with nasal polyps (CRSwNP) is a type 2 inflammatory disease of the nasal passages and sinuses associated with a high symptom burden due to the chronic, relapsing nature of the disease. If you ask CRSwNP patients about the most important disease symptoms, they would say nasal congestion and decrease in smell. However, many CRSwNP patients would say that losing their sense of smell is particularly troublesome. This study was conducted to better understand the effect of dupilumab, which is approved in the U.S. for adults with uncontrolled CRSwNP, on sense of smell.   (more…)
Abuse and Neglect, Brain Injury / 24.07.2019 Interview with: Fanny Lecuyer Giguère, PhD candidate Centre de Recherche en Neuropsychologie et Cognition (CERNEC) Université de Montréal What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Previous work on moderate-severe traumatic brain injury (TBI) showed clear olfactory impairments (OI) months and years after the trauma. Within these impairments, hyposmia (partial loss of smell) and anosmia (total loss of smell) were the most described OI. Moreover, TBI patients with OI generally developed more long-term anxiety and depression symptoms, when compared to patients without OI. Almost no study evaluated such impairments after a mild TBI, which is none to be the most prevalent form of TBI (80% of all TBI). We evaluated quantitative olfactory scores, post-concussive symptoms, anxiety and depression, within the first 24 hours and one year after the trauma, on a cohort of 20 mild TBI patients and compared these results with a 22 patients control orthopaedic group. Results showed that, within the first 24-hour post-trauma, more than 50% of the mild TBI patients had clinical sing of reduced olfactory capacities (hyposmia) compared to only 5% (1 patient) within the control group. Consequently, patients with mild traumatic brain injury had lower olfactory threshold and had more difficulty to discriminate and identify different odors. Also, when comparing the mild TBI patients with OI (OI+) to the mild TBI patients without OI (OI-), we realized that OI+ mild TBI patients reported more anxiety and post-concussion symptoms 1 year after the trauma.   (more…)
Addiction, Author Interviews, Coffee / 16.05.2019 Interview with: Dr Lorenzo Stafford, PhD, CPsychol Senior Lecturer, Department of Psychology University of Portsmouth Portsmouth What is the background for this study?   Response: The background to this work was that I had been thinking for sometime on the role of our sense of smell in drug consumption and addiction.  Most of the research in this area is dominated by visual processes, in particular showing how cues associated to drugs (e.g. packet of cigarettes, bottle of beer) become conditioned in such drug users. That work has been useful in explaining how in recovering addicts, long after the withdrawal symptoms have subsided, when exposed to such cues, they can nevertheless relapse to craving and consuming the drug; hence though a powerful driver, addiction is not just about reversing withdrawal symptoms. However, most of our richer experiences are multisensory, so it seems likely that other senses must also play a role in the addictive process. Years ago, I completed a PhD on the topic of caffeine and with the general importance placed on the sensory (especially smell) aspects of coffee, all planted the seed for a possible study. We completed two experiments that examined the lowest concentration at which participants (high, moderate and non-coffee consumers) could detect (Threshold test) a coffee associated chemical (exp 1) and in a separate task, how fast they were at identifying (Recognition test) the odour of real coffee. In experiment 2, participants (coffee consumers and non-consumers) completed the same Threshold test for the coffee odour but also completed a Threshold test for a control odour. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, PNAS / 02.05.2019 Interview with: Dr. Casey Trimmer, PhD Geneticist, was a post-doctoral fellow at the Monell Center when the research was conducted What is the background for this study?   Response: We detect odors using 400 different types of sensor proteins, called olfactory receptors, in our noses. An odor molecule activates a specific combination of these receptors, and this pattern of activation gives us information on what we're smelling--whether its floral or smoky, intense or weak, and how much we like it. However, how the system translates receptor activation to these perceptual features is largely unknown. Here, we take advantage of the extensive genetic variation in the OR gene family to understand the contribution of individual ORs to odor perception. By studying cases where the function of a particular OR is lost, we can examine what kinds of perceptual alterations occur, allowing us to link receptor to odor and understand what kind of information the receptor is encoding. Data linking genetic variation to perceptual changes exist for only 5 ORs. Here, we examined the perceived intensity and pleasantness of 68 odors in 332 participants. We used next-generation genome sequencing to identify variants in 418 OR genes and conducted a genetic association analysis to relate this variation to differences in odor perception. We then use a cell-based assay to examine receptor function and investigate the mechanisms underlying our associations. Finally, we examined the contribution of single OR genotype, genetic ancestry, age, and gender to variations in odor perception. (more…)
Author Interviews, ENT, JAMA, NIH / 17.08.2018 Interview with: “Bad smell” by Brian Fitzgerald is licensed under CC BY 2.0Kathleen Bainbridge, PhD Epidemiology and Biostatistics Program NIDCD What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The causes of phantom odor perception are not understood. This study looked for the prevalence and risk factors for this disorder. We found that that 1 in 15 Americans (or 6.5 percent) over the age of 40 experiences phantom odors. This study, is the first in the U.S. to use nationally representative data to examine the prevalence of and risk factors for phantom odor perception. The study included about 7,400 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a continuous survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics which is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study could inform future research aiming to unlock the mysteries of phantom odors. We identified risk factors that may be related to the perception of phantom odors. People are more likely to experience this condition if they are female, and are relatively young—we found a higher prevalence in 40-60 year-olds compared to 60+ year-olds. Other risk factors include head injury, dry mouth, poor overall health, and low socio-economic status. People with lower socio-economic status may have health conditions that contribute to phantom odors, either directly or because of medications needed to treat their health conditions. (more…)
Author Interviews, Kidney Stones, Nutrition / 07.08.2017 Interview with: Teodor Paunescu, PhD and Sagar Nigwekar, MD Division of Nephrology Massachusetts General Hospital What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Over 25 million people in the U.S. have chronic kidney disease, and the number of deaths caused by this disease has doubled between 1990 and 2010. It is projected that by 2030 more than 1 in 3 adults over 65 years old will be diagnosed with chronic kidney disease. Many patients with kidney disease are also malnourished, which negatively impacts their quality of life, overall health, and even survival. However, no effective treatments are currently available to address malnutrition in these patients. The sense of smell plays an important role in determining food flavor. If a patient’s ability to smell is impaired, this could affect the taste of food, for example, foods that used to appeal to the patient may no longer do so. Given the relation between the sense of smell and appetite, we set out to investigate the loss of smell in patients with kidney disease, and to test an intervention aimed at alleviating their smell deficits. Our first goal was to determine if patients with various degrees of kidney disease suffer smell losses and whether smell issues might affect their nutritional status. We found that, while most kidney disease patients do not perceive a problem with their sense of smell, deficits in the ability to smell are actually common among these patients, and the severity of these deficits increases with the severity of their kidney disease. Moreover, our study found that reductions in several markers of nutrition (such as cholesterol and albumin levels) correlate with the impairment in these patients’ sense of smell. (more…)
Author Interviews, Johns Hopkins, Kidney Disease, Nutrition, Race/Ethnic Diversity / 21.11.2016 Interview with: Deidra C. Crews, MD, ScM, FASN, FACP Associate Professor of Medicine, Division of Nephrology Associate Vice Chair for Diversity and Inclusion, Department of Medicine Director, Doctoral Diversity Program Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Baltimore MD 21224 What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Studies suggest that dietary patterns influence risk of kidney function decline. Barriers may hinder urban African Americans' following healthful diets that could mitigate their increased risk of kidney function decline. In this study, we characterized contextual barriers to healthful eating among urban African Africans with hypertension and examined the association of these barriers to kidney function decline over 1 year. We examined the presence of healthy foods in neighborhood stores of study participants. We also assessed them for food insecurity (the inability to afford nutritionally adequate and safe foods), directly observed and documented the presence of fruits and vegetables in their homes, and examined their fruit and vegetable intake via questionnaire. (more…)
Author Interviews / 24.12.2014 Interview with: Justus V. Verhagen, Ph.D. Associate Fellow, The John B. Pierce Laboratory Associate Professor, Dept. Neurobiology, Yale School Of Medicine New Haven, CT 06519 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Verhagen: The study explores how the part of the brain that encodes odors (the Olfactory Bulb, OB) works. It is much studied, but much remains to be learned about the Olfactory Bulb. It used to be thought that odors were encoded by spatial patterns of activity across the Olfactory Bulb alone. Due to advances in the resolution in imaging, it has become clear that odor coding is a highly dynamic process. We learned that after each sniff a pattern of activity evolves across the Olfactory Bulb, some areas activating sooner, some later. This suggested that the odor code is a spatial AND a temporal map, in other words, more like playing a brief movie than showing a brief picture after each sniff. We tested whether this was true by using a relatively new method called “Optogenetics”, which allows us to accurately control the activity across the Olfactory Bulb. (more…)
Author Interviews, Gender Differences, PLoS / 07.11.2014 Interview with: Prof. Roberto Lent Diretor, Instituto de Ciências Biomédicas Centro de Ciências da Saúde, Bloco K, sala 2-35 Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro Rio de Janeiro, Brasil Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Prof. Lent: Our group has been studying the absolute numbers of cells in the human brain, using a novel technique that we have developed. We have done it for the whole male brain, and arrived at a figure of 86 billion neurons and 85 billion glial cells, 15% less than the round number that became a neuromyth (one hundred billion neurons). We did it also for the demented brain, in this case working with females, and showed that it is dementia that is associated with a loss of neurons, because people with alzheimer, but no dementia, displayed normal numbers of neurons. The present paper focuses on sexual dimorphism in the olfactory bulb, and revealed that women have around 40% more neurons and glial cells than men, what correlates with their superior performance in many olfactory abilities. (more…)
Accidents & Violence, Author Interviews, JAMA / 16.10.2014

Richard M. Costanzo, PhD. Professor of Physiology and Biophysics and Special Assistant to the Vice President for Research Virginia Commonwealth Interview with: Richard M. Costanzo, PhD. Professor of Physiology and Biophysics and Special Assistant to the Vice President for Research Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study? Dr. Costanzo: In this study we found that individuals with varying degrees olfactory impairment have an increased risk of experiencing a hazardous event.  Those with complete loss (anosmia) were three times more likely to experience an event than those with normal olfactory function.  Factors such as age,sex, and race were found to affect an individual’s risk. (more…)