Monell Center Awarded Grant to Study Role of Nasal Airflow Obstruction in Loss of Smell (Anosmia)

Monell Center scientist Kai Zhao, Ph.D., is principal investigator on a $1.5-million, 4-year grant from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), part of the National Institutes of Health, to further develop clinical methodology that can predict the path of air flow through a person’s nasal passages. The methodology may someday help physicians evaluate treatment outcomes for patients undergoing surgery to reverse nasal obstruction and associated loss of smell (anosmia). “Our proposed research intends to validate a clinical tool that can determine whether blockage of nasal airflow contributes to a patient’s smell loss,” said Dr. Zhao, a biological engineer at the Monell Center (Advancing Discovery in Taste and Small) in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “This knowledge will assist both patients and clinicians in planning effective treatment options and potentially save millions of dollars in healthcare costs each year by eliminating unnecessary surgeries.” The project adds to the Monell Center’s expanding list of research focused on anosmia, the clinical term for lack of the sense of smell. Anosmia has several causes, including physical nasal obstruction due to chronic nasal sinus disease. Such obstruction, which can be caused by inflamed tissues, polyps, or other physical causes, is thought to block airflow, thus preventing odor molecules from reaching smell receptors high inside the nose. Approximately one quarter of anosmia cases are related to chronic nasal sinus disease, which affects an estimated 30 million people in the United States each year, making it one of the country’s most common medical conditions. Patients with nasal sinus disease often report congestion and accompanying feelings of airflow blockage or obstruction. However, in earlier studies, Dr.
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