A team of researchers and physicians from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital created a first-of-its-kind topical platelet-rich plasma treatment that restores people’s sense of smell and taste. Dr. David Rosen, an otolaryngologist, is leading the team that is addressing a key symptom of COVID-19. The loss or distortion of smell and taste, clinically known as anosmia and parosmia, affects up to 1.5 million people in the United States.
“I’ve dedicated over two decades to assist patients who have lost their sense of taste and smell,” Rosen said. “It was critical for me and our team to investigate less invasive options as this issue has become more prevalent as a result of COVID-19.” The results of phase I of the clinical trial were encouraging, and we are looking forward to phase II to improve the treatment even further.
The topical treatment is non-invasive and requires monthly applications for at least three months. According to Jefferson, a recent phase I clinical trial of eight patients who had at least six months of smell disturbance showed preliminary success, with 50 percent of participants experiencing clinically significant improvements in smell and taste.
Platelet-rich plasma is a common restorative therapy used to regenerate cells, heal tissue, and treat a variety of medical conditions ranging from healing injured muscles and tendons to increasing hair growth and reducing scar appearance. Platelet-rich plasma has been shown in animal studies to help regenerate the olfactory epithelium, which may be affected in COVID-19-induced olfactory dysfunction.
Because smell and taste are so closely related, improving one’s sense of smell can also help one’s sense of taste. Platelet-rich plasma has previously been used as a nasal injectable in a few small clinical trials for smell loss. Despite the promising results, nasal injections can be painful and invasive for patients.”Thomas Jefferson University is at the forefront of cutting-edge research to advance science and medical treatments around the world,” said Dr. Mark L. Tykocinski, Thomas Jefferson University’s Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost. “I’d like to thank this team of researchers and patient volunteers for their contributions to this important breakthrough, which will hopefully improve the quality of life for countless people suffering from this unfortunate long-COVID symptom.”