Area of Doctoral Study: Biological Sciences (Neurosciences and Cognitive Sciences Program
Undergraduate Institute: University of Virginia
Research Advisor: Dr. Weihong Lin
Description of Research
The main olfactory epithelium (MOE) in the nasal cavity detects thousands of inhaled odorants daily. Given the importance of this sensory ability for locating food, avoiding predators, and finding mates, is vital to the survival of an organism this tissue function optimally at all times.However, noxious stimuli such as bacteria, irritants, and pollutants may also be present in inhaled air, threatening damage to both the olfactory system and important related structures such as the brain, airway and lungs. Although there is published evidence that the MOE expresses metabolizing enzymes and transporters which can help eliminate these sorts of substances from the tissue, the mechanisms underlying the coordination of protective processes such as these are currently poorly understood. My research aims to elucidate these mechanisms by investigating how a small, specific population of cells in the MOE may play an integral role in coordinating these protective processes. More specifically, the current work explores how these cells may alter both tissue morphology and the physiological responses of other epithelial cells in order to maintain the functional sensitivity of the MOE in response to inhaled noxious substances. A better overall understanding of these protective processes in the olfactory system may help increase understanding about what risks olfactory exposure poses to the organism as a whole.