Cultured olfactory stem cells can be transplanted in mice to repopulate cells in injured nasal tissue, according to a study published March 28 in Stem Cell Reports. Researchers figured out how to grow horizontal basal cells, a type of stem cell, from several organisms. Using both mouse and human cells in vitro, the scientists found they could rouse the cells from dormancy to differentiate into various cell types, including sensory neurons, with retinoic acid. When they introduced cultured stem cells to the injured nasal tissue of living mice, those treated with retinoic acid took hold and yielded several types of nasal epithelial cells.
It’s not clear yet though if cultured stem cells can help restore a recipient’s sense of smell, but that’s the ultimate goal. “[W]e see this as a useful tool for exploring ways to guide cell differentiation toward specific cell types, and develop new stem cell therapies for tissue and sensory regeneration—using the patient’s own stem cells for culturing and transplantation, or pharmacological interventions to activate the patient’s own dormant stem cells within the nose,” says study coauthor James Schwob of Tufts University, in a statement.
J. Peterson et al., “Activating a reserve neural stem cell population in vitro enables engraftment and multipotency after transplantation,” Stem Cell Reports, doi:10.1016/j.stemcr.2019.02.014, 2019.