The second phase of a clinical trial for patients to regain their sense of taste and smell is about to begin, and it is showing promising results.
Otolaryngologist Dr. David Rosen has been helping patients restore their sense of taste and smell after respiratory infections for two decades. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, a concerning number of people were experiencing this overwhelming side effect. Traditional therapy to treat this condition can require a painful injection directly up the nostril to the olfactory nerve. But, Dr. Rosen began trying a less invasive treatment using a topical application of platelet-rich plasma (PRP) into the nose to stimulate cell regrowth and restore taste and smell. This therapeutic approach, which shows some success, is now entering into phase II clinical trial. Nancy, a patient suffering from persistent anosmia after a COVID diagnosis in 2021, shared how this trial has helped her senses begin to return.
We spoke with Dr. Rosen and otolaryngologists, Drs. Glen D’Souza and Alexander Duffy, about how the clinical trial is helping patients.
How is COVID causing loss of taste and smell?
Rosen: COVID is directly binding to the lining of the nose through a particular receptor called the ACE-2 receptor. The nose lining gets damaged, along with the cells it supports called the olfactory cells, commonly known as the smell cells. Because they lose the supporting cells, the olfactory cells can’t function properly.
How does treatment to regain taste and smell begin?
Rosen: First, we prescribe an oral steroid, work with patients through olfactory training (smell training), and suggest they begin taking supplements, such as V vitamin A, alpha-lipoic acid, sodium citrate, or omega 3. They can also use an over-the-counter nasal steroid. If they don’t recover within six months, we start trying more aggressive treatments, such as the one used in our clinical trial.
Can you tell us more about the treatment offered in the clinical trial?
Rosen: We are taking a patient’s blood and spinning it down to remove the red cells and saving the plasma, which has all the platelets in it. We take the PRP, and we apply that topically into the nose. This helps the cells regenerate because PRP can help cell regeneration throughout the body, for example, hair regrowth.
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