NanoString's GeoMx Digital Spatial Profiler Used to Explore Loss of Smell Associated with COVID-19

Publication in the Journal Cell Reveals SARS-CoV-2 Does Not Appear to Affect Expression of Odorant Receptor Genes

NanoString Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: NSTG), a leading provider of life science tools for discovery and translational research, today announced a peer-reviewed paper published in the journal Cell using the GeoMx® Digital Spatial Profiler (DSP) and GeoMx Human Whole Transcriptome Atlas (WTA) to address one of the more perplexing symptoms of COVID-19: Anosmia or the loss of smell.

The paper Khan et al., "Visualizing in deceased COVID-19 patients how SARS-CoV-2 attacks the respiratory and olfactory mucosae but spares the olfactory bulb", was led by Peter Mombaerts, M.D., Ph.D., at the Max Planck Research Unit of Neurogenetics in Frankfurt, Germany, and by Laura Van Gerven, M.D., Ph.D., at the University of Leuven in Leuven, Belgium. The team focused on the onset of the sequence of biological events that ultimately leads to olfactory dysfunction.

Using a novel tissue collection procedure, the research team examined samples from 70 COVID-19 patients, enabling the team to study the virus while it is still replicating. After establishing that SARS-CoV-2 does not infect olfactory sensory neurons, the researchers used the GeoMx DSP to explore whether olfactory sensory neurons are indirectly affected by other nearby cells that are infected. The researchers compared whole-transcriptome expression patterns between adjacent regions of nasal cavity tissues with low and high viral load. This spatial transcriptomics approach confirmed that areas with a high viral load had reduced expression of genes that were known to be specifically expressed in sustentacular cells within the olfactory epithelium, but showed no changes in odorant receptor gene expression in nearby olfactory sensory neurons.

“Spatial context is key. The olfactory epitheliu is made up of an archipelago of islands scattered amidst the respiratory epithelium, so taking a bulk RNA sequencing approach would not have been helpful,” said Peter Mombaerts, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator. “The GeoMx DSP allowed us to compare specific regions of the olfactory epithelium with varying viral loads. These regions can be regarded as tiny, directed biopsies.”

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, spatially-resolved whole transcriptome expression has been invaluable for scientists to understand the effects this deadly virus has on specific regions within organs,” said Joseph Beechem, Ph.D., chief scientific officer, NanoString. “Now with spatial transcriptomics of the nasal epithelia, we are gaining a holistic understanding of SARS-CoV-2 infection.”

The GeoMx DSP enables researchers to rapidly and quantitatively characterize tissue morphology with a high-throughput, high-plex RNA and protein profiling system that preserves precious samples for future analyses. NanoString and its collaborators have presented DSP data in dozens of abstracts at major scientific meetings and in over 80 peer-reviewed publications, demonstrating DSP's utility to address a wide range of biological questions in FFPE and frozen tissues. Interested parties can learn more about DSP by visiting

About NanoString Technologies, Inc.

NanoString Technologies is a leading provider of life science tools for discovery and translational research. The company's nCounter® Analysis System is used in life sciences research and has been cited in more than 4,900 peer-reviewed publications. The nCounter Analysis System offers a cost-effective way to easily profile the expression of hundreds of genes, proteins, miRNAs, or copy number variations, simultaneously with high sensitivity and precision, facilitating a wide variety of basic research and translational medicine applications, including biomarker discovery and validation. The company's GeoMx® Digital Spatial Profiler enables highly multiplexed spatial profiling of RNA and protein targets in a variety of sample types, including FFPE tissue sections.

For more information, please visit

NanoString, NanoString Technologies, the NanoString logo, GeoMx, and nCounter are trademarks or registered trademarks of NanoString Technologies, Inc. in various jurisdictions.


Doug Farrell, NanoString

Vice President, Investor Relations & Corporate Communications

Phone: 206-602-1768

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