Background: Olfactory loss is a significant health problem that remains incompletely understood. The development of suitable animal models is essential to the progress of human olfactory loss research. Recent advancements in transgenic technology allow the creation of model systems to address causes of olfactory neuron dysfunction. Methods: This review describes two transgenic mouse models with potential usefulness in the study of olfactory loss and highlights the molecular techniques that underlie the development of such systems. Results: Genetic constructs generated using standard molecular biological techniques are introduced into mouse germ lines either by homologous recombination or by random integration. One construct (UbI7) places the olfactory receptor I7 under control of the olfactory marker protein promoter. The other two constructs (TI) act together to direct expression of cytokines in the olfactory epithelium, creating a novel approach to the study of inflammatory olfactory loss. Conclusions: Powerful scientific tools now exist to develop animal models useful to the study of human olfactory disease. Transgenic olfactory neurons from the UbI7 mouse strain will respond to known odorants, facilitating experiments that examine in vitro modulation of olfactory neuron function. The ability to express specific genes in the olfactory mucosa of the TI mouse has great potential in elucidating the role of cytokines in the development of olfactory dysfunction in vivo.
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