Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Zebrafish have previously studied smell loss with COVID

ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – The COVID-19 pandemic is urging biologists at UNM to use animal models to conduct research on the symptoms found in people infected with SARS-COV-2. New research from the University of New Mexico digs deeper into why some symptoms are caused by COVID-19.

Irene Salinas is Associate Professor of Biology at UNM. She explains: “In my lab, we are very interested in the interactions between viruses and olfactory systems.”

Why do some people lose their smell when infected with the virus? Zebrafish are widely used in biomedical research for several reasons. “They’re transparent, so we can do a lot of things related to imaging the whole animal, and they’re also very easy to genetically manipulate, so we can tweak things in the zebrafish to change the DNA composition,” says Salinas.

Researchers use the spike protein – the part of the virus responsible for infecting its host. Biology Ph.D. Student Aurora Kraus says, “I can stick it right into the little fish noses and see how the nose and the neurons that sense the smell have responded to the virus.”

This allows them to understand how neurons and immune cells in the nose interact and how these two functions affect your brain. “I did some histological staining and saw that the neuroepo-phloem area, where the sensory neurons that perceive smell live, was really extremely destroyed,” explains Kraus.

Those leading this research at UNM hope this model will help understand long-term COVID-19 systems and the impact of vaccines on populations.

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