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23 ноября 2018, 00:39

‘Robo-Nose’ Made From Mouse Cells Could Replace K-9 Officers

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Duke University researchers are developing an artificial “robot nose” that could replace drug-sniffing dogs.

Their prototype—based on odor receptors grown from the genes of mice—is detailed in a paper published earlier this month by the journal Nature Communications .

“This idea of an artificial nose has been present for a long time,” according to senior study author Hiroaki Matsunami, a professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at the Duke School of Medicine.

This year alone scientists in the US and Spain have created electronic schnozes that pinpoint rotten food and colon diseases, respectively.

There is a big difference, though, between testing things in a lab dish versus in an actual nose.

“The receptors were identified in the 1990s, but there are significant technical hurdles to produce all these receptors and monitor the activity so that we can use that in an artificial device,” Matsunami said in a statement.

Existing “e-noses” detect smells using various chemical compounds, instead of receptor stem cells. Those devices, however, are “not as good as a trained dog.”

“The idea is that by using the actual, living receptors, maybe we can develop a device similar to animals,” Matsunami continued. “Nobody has achieve that yet, but this study is moving toward that goal.”

While ever-wasteful humans use only about 2 percent of our genes to make odor receptors, mice invest more resources—some 5 percent of their genes—for this purpose.

“Mice and rats are very good smellers,” Matsunami explained. “We just don’t use mice for detecting explosives in real life. There are some practical problems to do that.”

(Anyone else picturing a hilariously volatile Tom and Jerry sketch right now?)

Accounting for the fact that humans inhale airborne scents through noses full of mucus, the team attempted to mimic our snouts by exposing odorants to two odor vapors and a few enzymes.

Researchers plan to fine-tune their device to test all receptors against many different smells.

More coverage on Geek.com:

Source: https://www.geek.com/news/robo-nose-made-from-mouse-cells-could-replace-k-9-officers-1762366/?source=science