Our sense of smell and the sensation of breathing plays an important role in our daily lives. The sudden absence of these sensations really highlight our dependency on these sensory inputs when it comes to our quality of life. Nasal obstruction, loss of smell, and nasal sinus disease are a few examples of how our olfactory sensations can be diminished. Since the main physiological function of the nasal cavity is the passage of airflow during inhalation and exhalation, airflow is a key factor when it comes to sensation of smell and the sensation of breathing. Therefore, it is important to understand how the airflow in the nasal cavity is affected in various different situations and how that plays into our olfactory sensations. This allows us to understand the nature of different nasal sinus conditions and can help to optimize treatments and suggest appropriate surgical options to alleviate these conditions. 

Our research aims to use computational fluid dynamics (CFD) and other numerical simulation techniques to quantitatively evaluate and understand the nasal airflow in the human nasal cavity under a variety of different circumstances. These techniques are also utilized to investigate odorant distribution within the nasal cavity as well as investigating the airflow and odorant distribution in other mammals. Using these techniques, we can achieve a full picture of the airflow and odorant distribution within the nasal cavity without the need for invasive procedures.   


Title: “Objective evaluation of conductive olfactory losses & nasal obstruction symptoms,”
Agency: NIH-NIDCD, R01 DC013626
PI: Kai Zhao
Funding Period: 12/01/2014 - 11/31/2018

“A Prospective, Non-Randomized Study to Evaluate Treatment Outcome of Nasal Airway Obstruction Using the Aerin Medical Vivaer Stylus”,

Agency: Industry Sponsor, Otto (PI) (5/19/17-5/19/18) Budget: $152,250.53,

Role: Co-Investigator


Eichaker L., Li C., King N., Pepper V., Best C., Onwuka E., Heuer E., Zhao K., Grischkan J., Breuer C., Johnson J., Chiang T. (2018) Quantification of tissue engineered trachea performance with computational fluid dynamics, Laryngoscope (in press)


Patel T., Li C., Krebs J., Zhao K., Malhotra P. (2018) Modeling Congenital Nasal Pyriform Aperture Stenosis Using Computational Fluid Dynamics, International Journal of Pediatric Otorhinolaryngology, doi.org/10.1016/j.ijporl.2018.04.002

Li C., Jiang J., Kim K., Otto B.A., Farag A.A., Cowart BJ., Pribitkin EA. Dalton P., Zhao K.,(2018) Nasal structural and aerodynamic features that may benefit normal olfactory sensitivity, Chemical Senses (In press).


Lee TS., Goyal P., Li C., Zhao K., (2018) Computational Fluid Dynamics to Evaluate the Effectiveness of Inferior Turbinate Reduction Techniques to Improve Nasal Airflow, JAMA Facial Plastic Surgery (in press) doi: 10.1001/jamafacial.2017.2296.

*See publications tab to see full publication list

Nasal obstruction: This ongoing study aims to develop and validate an objective diagnostic tool by combining novel computational models with sensory measurements, which would enable patients and clinicians to make informed, personalized treatment/surgery strategy. This project has also led to invention of novel non-surgical treatment option. Specific areas:

*             Turbinate hypotrophy

*             Septal deviation

*             Septal perforation

*             Empty Nose syndrome

*             Skull base patients

*             Obstruction related smell loss

Nasal drug delivery: This ongoing study uses computational models and 3D printing to optimize surgical impact for nasal drug delivery. The project also explores novel drug delivery methodology.

Endoscopic sinus surgery simulator: This ongoing study aims to develop and validate a virtual endoscopic sinus surgery simulator to simulate, predict, and optimize surgical approaches that may improve clinical practice and offer personalized medicine in the future.

Olfaction function and Training: Investigating the impact of nasal aerodynamics on olfactory function; the use of olfactory training and novel modulation of nasal airflows to improve olfactory function in both healthy controls and patients with reported smell losses.