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.
A friend of mine has type 1 diabetes, for which she injects a synthetic insulin called Humalog. When she does, there's a quick but very powerful aroma of... Band-Aids. It's weird. I never thought much of it, until the last time I had a peaty glass of scotch, a drink I've never particularly loved. As I took my first sip, I thought, as I always do, that it smelled like... the same Band-Aids. A quick poll of PopSci editors revealed that I wasn't alone in associating the smell of scotch with non-food: others thought of Sharpies, hospitals, and wood stain. Why would scotch, a drink beloved by many for centuries, remind people of things that are so thoroughly not delicious? As it turns out, the resemblance is not at all a coincidence.
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.