After people suffer damage to the olfactory bulb due to a traumatic brain injury or stroke, they often experience problems with their sense of smell. The olfactory bulb is connected by neurons to the olfactory epithelium, specialized cells found in the lining of the nose that help us smell. Recovery from the damage is a slow and often incomplete process in people. “Individuals suffering acute brain damage rarely achieve full functional recovery, since mammalian brains have a very limited capacity to repair and regenerate neurons,” Erika Calvo-Ochoa, a postdoc in the lab of Christine Byrd-Jacobs at Western Michigan University, says in an email to The Scientist. Byrd-Jacobs’s lab studies damage to the olfactory epithelium in zebrafish caused by brain injury. Calvo-Ochoa injects zebrafish olfactory bulbs with quinolinic acid, a chemical that causes neuron death in the bulb and in epithelial cells.
The team’s latest research, presented at the Society for Neuroscience meeting last week, shows that after injury, both the olfactory bulb and epithelium return to normal in zebrafish within three weeks due to cell regeneration that forms new neurons. The researchers are currently studying the mechanism behind this process in an attempt to better understand how the brain can bounce back after traumatic injury.
Emily Makowski is an intern at The Scientist. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.