Age-related olfactory loss is an important public health problem affecting approximately 14 million older Americans. The profound burden this sensory impairment causes in the daily lives of older people is associated with a substantially decreased quality of life, affecting critical functions such as safety, nutrition, sensation of pleasure, and general well-being. Because olfaction declines over time, the clinical impact will increase as our population ages. Previous studies of this decline in olfactory physiology in humans have been limited, requiring novel approaches to understanding factors that affect this process. In this application, I propose to characterize factors that underlie susceptibility to ag-related olfactory decline. Using data from the Memory and Aging Project (MAP) and the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project (NSHAP), I plan to identify biodemographic factors that are associated with age-related olfactory decline. These robust resources, in which health and olfactory data have been collected previously along with relevant biomeasures, will allow an analysis of medical and psychosocial parameters that are associated with olfactory loss in older persons. In parallel, I will examine genetic risk factors for this phenotype by performing genome-wide association studies (GWAS) using existing genotype data in MAP and in the Hutterites, a population which has a number of distinct advantages for genetic mapping, including uniform environmental exposures and rich clinical information on relevant co-morbidities. This line of study will involve analysis of several olfactory traits for identifying gene(s) involved in the decline of the sense of smell. Lastly, using available, high quality DNA specimens, I will replicate these genetic associations in NSHAP. A structured training program will include courses in genetic epidemiology and demography for the development of analytic expertise, culminating in a Master's degree. Mentorship will be multidisciplinary by three renowned scientists who possess significant experience in genetics, demography, and aging. This award will allow me to develop the skills necessary to direct an independent research program on the impact of olfactory decline and other nasal diseases on older persons. This approach, utilizing three unparalleled and complementary data sets, will provide insight into the pathophysiology of age-related olfactory decline which, ultimately, can lead to improved prognostic, diagnostic and therapeutic modalities. Completion of these studies will serve as a model for understanding the non- genetic and genetic influences on sensory decline in aging.

Public Health Relevance

This proposal describes multiple approaches to understanding why the sense of smell decreases with age, a burdensome problem for millions of older persons. Through analyses in three well-characterized groups of older individuals, each with unique advantages for study, Dr. Pinto will examine both clinical and genetic factors that predispose to olfactory decline in aging. Additionally, with training in demography, gerontology, and genetics supported by this award, Dr. Pinto will develop new scientific skills in this arena with wide applicability to future work, allowing for a productive career in geriatric otolaryngolog.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Aging (NIA)
Mentored Patient-Oriented Research Career Development Award (K23)
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National Institute on Aging Initial Review Group (NIA)
Program Officer
Chen, Wen G
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University of Chicago
Schools of Medicine
United States
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Pinto, Jayant M; Wroblewski, Kristen E; Kern, David W et al. (2014) Olfactory dysfunction predicts 5-year mortality in older adults. PLoS One 9:e107541
Pinto, Jayant M; Kern, David W; Wroblewski, Kristen E et al. (2014) Sensory function: insights from Wave 2 of the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 69 Suppl 2:S144-53
Kern, David W; Wroblewski, Kristen E; Schumm, L Philip et al. (2014) Olfactory function in Wave 2 of the National Social Life, Health, and Aging Project. J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci 69 Suppl 2:S134-43
Pinto, Jayant M; Schumm, Ludwig Philip; Wroblewski, Kristen E et al. (2014) Racial disparities in olfactory loss among older adults in the United States. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci 69:323-9
Patel, Riddhi M; Pinto, Jayant M (2014) Olfaction: anatomy, physiology, and disease. Clin Anat 27:54-60
Keydar, Ifat; Ben-Asher, Edna; Feldmesser, Ester et al. (2013) General olfactory sensitivity database (GOSdb): candidate genes and their genomic variations. Hum Mutat 34:32-41