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The Taste and Smell Clinic

August 2019

Stem Cells in Olfactory Epithelium are Immortal

Stem cells are pluripotent cells which have been implicated in the initiation of many bodily tissues (1). Olfactory stem cells may be unique in that they appear to be “immortal” and do not undergo senescence (2) although they require continued endogenous stimulation with many metabolic growth factors necessary for their continued persistenece (3,4). In this sense the olfactory system may be unique and its receptor activity different from that of other bodily systems (5).


  1. Blau, H, Daley, G. Stem Cells in the Treatment of Disease. N Engl J Med 2019; 380:1748-1760.DOI: 10.1056/NEJMra1716145.

  2. Rao, M. Stem and precursor cells in the nervous system. J Neurotrauma. 2004;21(4):415–427.

  3. Henkin RI. Sonic hedgehog binds to patched molecules on sensory stem cells to initiate smell and taste function. FASEB J. 2019: 719.2.

  4. Henkin RI. Growth factors in olfaction. In: Preedy VR, Ed. The Handbook of Growth and Growth Monitoring in Health and Disease. Vol II. New York: Springer-Verlag; 2011, p. 1417-1436.

  5. Henkin RI. Evaluation and treatment of human olfactory dysfunction. In: English GM, Ed. Otolaryngology. Vol. 2. Philadelphia: Lippincott; 1993, p. 1-86.