ALBUQUERQUE, NM (KRQE) – The COVID-19 pandemic is prompting biologists at UNM to use animal models to conduct research into the symptoms found in people infected with SARS-COV-2. New research from the University of New Mexico digs deeper into why certain symptoms are caused by COVID-19.

Irene Salinas is an associate professor of biology at UNM. She explains: “In my lab, we are really interested in the interactions between viruses and olfactory systems.

Specifically, why do some people lose their sense of smell when infected with the virus? Zebrafish are widely used in biomedical research for several reasons. “They’re transparent so we can do a lot of things in terms of imaging the whole animal and they’re also very good at genetically manipulating so we can modify things in the zebrafish to change the makeup of the DNA. “, explains Salinas.

The researchers use the spike protein – the part of the virus responsible for infecting its host. Ph.D. in Biology student Aurora Kraus says, “I can put it right into the little fish nose and see how the nose and the neurons that sense the smell responded to the virus.”

This helps them understand how neurons and immune cells interact in the nose and how these two functions affect your brain. “I did some histological staining and saw that the area of ​​the neuroepo phloem, where the sensory neurons that detect smell live, was really extremely destroyed,” says Kraus.

Those leading this research at UNM hope this model will help understand long-term COVID-19 systems and the effect of vaccines on the population.