The study, conducted by University of Health Sciences (UHS), shows that there is an age-related tendency to lose specialised cells for sensing smell.
The sense of smell along with sense of taste serves to monitor the intake of environmental chemicals and nutrients into the body and determines, to a great extent, the flavour of food and drinks.
In the study, 80 tissue samples (40 for either sex) were collected from cadavers ranging from 30 to 82 years of age. Individual age groups of males and females included 10 specimens from each sex.
A detailed study of the cell lining of the nose revealed the presence of classically known three cells: olfactory cells, sustentacular cells, and basal cells, and a fourth type, microvillar cells.
UHS Anatomy Department teacher Dr Fahim Haider Jafri said that in the age group of 30-39 years (male and female) the olfactory cell lining was much thicker. In the age group of 40-49 years, early age related changes were observed in the shape of occasional short epithelial invaginations and disturbance of the zonal distribution of olfactory and supporting cells.
In the case of 50-59 years, major morphological changes were observed like substantial reduction in the number of nuclei resulting in the decreased height of the epithelium, disturbance of zonal distribution and presence of epithelial invaginations.
The age group of 60 years onwards showed gradual thinning of the cell lining, and in few cases atrophied olfactory epithelium devoid of olfactory cells. There was no significant age related decrease in the number of basal cells.
The number of microvillar cells was markedly less when compared to other cells of the epithelium.
The findings suggest that loss of olfactory and sustentacular cells is pronounced in individuals of both sexes of 50+ years of age.
Jafri said that the underlying cause of age-related changes in olfactory function was because of the receptor cells that were more or less directly exposed to the outside environment, making them susceptible to bacteria, virus, toxins and other agents.
'We want to solve the health problems of our country with the help of original research on various diseases and disorders,' the Daily Times quoted UHS Vice-Chancellor Prof Malik Hussain Mubashar, as saying.