Science can make blind mice see again and deaf mice hear — now scent-deprived mice can sniff their surroundings and smell for the first time, after a new gene therapy. It may be a while before this treatment percolates up to humans, but it’s a sign that gene therapy could restore smell in this rare but disorder.
The olfactory sense has long been thought to stem from the way a battery of chemical receptors in the nose interact with molecules based on their physical shapes. But a collaboration between MIT researchers and their Greek colleagues is nosing out a far more complex and potentially useful mechanism that enables sense of smell: quantum tunneling.
Researchers at the University of Tokyo are using frog eggs to enhance what might seem like an unlikely element of robotics: olfactory sensing. By injecting the eggs with the DNA from various insects known for expressing keen senses of smell, the team was able to create a robotic nose that can detect molecules at levels as low as a few parts per billion.
If something doesn't smell right, the Army wants to know about it. But while the Pentagon has been angling for a biosensors that can smell fear or nervousness in a person's bodily emanations for some years now, the Army wants something more: The ability to "uniquely identify an individual based on scent" from a distance or even days after the person has left the scene.