New Techniques for Biopsy and Culture of Human Olfactory Epithelial Neurons | Pathology and Laboratory Medicine | JAMA Otolaryngology–Head & Neck Surgery | JAMA Network
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Original Article
August 1998

New Techniques for Biopsy and Culture of Human Olfactory Epithelial Neurons

Author Affiliations

From the School of Biomolecular and Biomedical Science, Griffith University, Nathan, Australia (Drs Féron and Mackay-Sim); Department of Otolaryngology, Princess Alexandra Hospital, South Brisbane, Australia (Drs Perry and McGrath); and Queensland Centre for Schizophrenia Research, Wolston Park Hospital, Wacol, Australia (Drs Féron, McGrath, and Mackay-Sim).

Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 1998;124(8):861-866. doi:10.1001/archotol.124.8.861

Objective  To improve the success of culturing olfactory neurons from human nasal mucosa by investigating the intranasal distribution of the olfactory epithelium and devising new techniques for growing human olfactory epithelium in vitro.

Design  Ninety-seven biopsy specimens were obtained from 33 individuals, aged 21 to 74 years, collected from 6 regions of the nasal cavity. Each biopsy specimen was bisected, and 1 piece was processed for immunohistochemistry or electron microscopy while the other piece was dissected further for explant culture. Four culture techniques were performed, including whole explants and explanted biopsy slices. Five days after plating, neuronal differentiation was induced by means of a medium that contained basic fibroblast growth factor. After another 5 days, cultures were processed for immunocytochemical analysis.

Results  The probability of finding olfactory epithelium in a biopsy specimen ranged from 30% to 76%, depending on its location. The dorsoposterior regions of the nasal septum and the superior turbinate provided the highest probability, but, surprisingly, olfactory epithelium was also found anteriorly and ventrally on both septum and turbinates. A new method of culturing the olfactory epithelium was devised. This slice culture technique improved the success rate for generating olfactory neurons from 10% to 90%.

Conclusions  This study explains and overcomes most of the variability in the success in observing neurogenesis in cultures of adult human olfactory epithelium. The techniques presented here make the human olfactory epithelium a useful model for clinical research into certain olfactory dysfunctions and a model for the causes of neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases.