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9 May, 2007 - 10:42 By Staff Reporter

Researchers sniffing fresh opportunities

High class researchers are always sniffing fresh opportunities to combat diseases but a new range of ‘electronic noses’ takes the concept further than ever before.A team of UK researchers claims to have developed a mucus substitute that improves the performance of odour sensing electronic noses.

The electronic smell sensors work on the same principal as a human nose, but possess only 10 sensors compared to the 100 million specialised receptors present in human noses used to detect smells.

Receptors in the human nose are covered with a thin layer of mucus, which makes them very sensitive to different scents.

Electronic noses do not possess any such mucus.

Now, Julian Gardner and colleagues at Warwick University, along with researchers at Leicester University have created an artificial mucus layer that mimics this process.

The mucus membrane improves the performance of odour-sensing “electronic noses,” helping it to pick up more complex smells.

Using chromatography, the mucus layer dissolves scents and separates their components chemically.

Different odour molecules then reach receptors at slightly varied times, enabling the receptors to distinguish between different compounds.

Researchers believe the development would offer faster analysis and detection time.

Anthony Turner at Cranfield University is working on using e-noses to detect tuberculosis for the World Health Organisation,

He said: “This team has pioneered this field for years. It sounds like an exciting new approach.”

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