UNM biologists use zebrafish as model to understand loss of smell caused by Covid

The COVID-19 pandemic has prompted the search for animal models that demonstrate the symptoms observed in humans infected with SARS-CoV-2. New research from University of New Mexico Biology Ph.D. student Aurora Kraus and associate professor of Biology Irene Salinas have begun using zebrafish as a model for COVID-19 with emphasis on the loss of smell many people have reported as a symptom of the virus.

“In my lab we are really interested in the interaction between viruses and the olfactory system, so we want to understand why we lose smell when we get infected with the virus,” Salinas said.

Through this work, Kraus and Salinas aim to better understand how neurons and immune cells interact in the nose and how these two functions affect your brain. With COVID-19 remaining an ongoing public health crisis, they wanted to further apply this research to examine how COVID-19 changes your sense of smell and affects the overall state of your brain.

“Right now we are the only ones taking that question on a model that is so genetically pliable. Hopefully it can help with long COVID symptoms and understanding the effect of vaccines on the population,” Kraus said.

Additionally, Salinas said she is very excited about this model for its potential to see how smell recovers from COVID-19.

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