Neurogenesis and tissue renewal in the olfactory system
The olfactory epithelium in the nose is the peripheral organ for the sense of smell, housing primary olfactory sensory neurons. Olfactory neurons are generally felt to be short-lived, requiring ongoing replacement from basal stem cells to maintain olfactory function. Anosmia (a loss of the sense of smell) in humans can occur in neurodegenerative diseases or due to inflammation, tissue damage or aging. Evidence suggests that neurogenic exhaustion, or excess cumulative damage, may contribute to olfactory loss. Accordingly, our work has focused on understanding mechanisms involved in ongoing adult olfactory tissue maintenance. The lab has used mouse models of olfactory injury and culture systems to study adult olfactory degeneration and regeneration. Findings from these approaches have led to a focus on the role of Polycomb complexes in the epigenetic regulation of olfactory cellular renewal. In addition, we have explored the culture expansion and therapeutic potential of neurogenic olfactory basal progenitor cells.