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Research project testing new treatment to restore COVID long-haulers' sense of taste, smell

Research testing platelet-rich plasma to restore COVID patients' sense of smell 02:17

NEW YORK - Long COVID has many symptoms, from fatigue and joint pain to difficulty concentrating, depression and muscle pain, but one of the most distressing is the loss of your sense of smell and taste.

Now, CBS2's Dr. Max Gomez reports there's a unique way to restore those senses that actually started out as a treatment for tennis elbow.

Nancy Damato is finally able to enjoy eating again. She lost her ability to taste and smell after a bout with COVID-19 last February.

"It was really, really jarring. I mean, I lost it, like, instantaneously," she said.

It's often one of the first symptoms of COVID that's usually temporary, but for some patients, like Damato, the inability to taste and smell lasts and becomes a COVID-19 long-haul symptom.

"It was life-changing that I couldn't enjoy any food. I didn't want to eat. It was so depressing," she said.


With limited treatment options, Damato found an intriguing research project at Jefferson Health in Philadelphia.

"I really feel that it's helping me," she said.

The Jefferson research is testing platelet-rich plasma, called PRP, from the patient's own blood to restore smell. It's been used to heal soft tissue injuries like pulled muscles and tennis elbow and even to regrow hair. Now instead of injections, Dr. David Rosen and his team are using a biodegradable sponge infused with PRP.

"We put it up very high up in the nose where all the smell fibers are located. It gets absorbed through the lining of the nose. It basically helps those cells that have been damaged by the COVID virus to start regenerating," Rosen said.

He says of the nine COVID-19 patients who've received PRP, eight have responded.


"I'm able to start to enjoy some flavors, food again," Damato said.

After five monthly treatments, Damato says her sense of smell and taste are slowly coming back. She's able to enjoy her perfume again and is back to wine tastings.

The theory as to how PRP works, in the elbow and perhaps in the nose, is that the plasma stimulates and nurtures stem cells to regenerate, regrow and repair the cells that have been damaged, either by COVID or by too much tennis trauma.

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