Japanese scientists develops worlds first artificial odor sensor using live cells

A team of scientists led by Shoji Takeuchi, associate professor at the University of Tokyo has developed the first artificial odor sensor in the world that uses living cells to distinguish similar smells. In cells taken from xenopus eggs, a species of frog, the team artificially created smell receptors that respond to female moth odors. The frog egg cells were chosen because they were easy to handle. The scientists then made solutions of various odorous chemicals, and brought the liquids into contact with the cells. They discovered that each cell responded to odorous chemicals by generating electricity. According to Takeuchi, the sensor works for any distinguishable odor.

According to the team, living creatures have special proteins, which are called receptors, in their olfactory organs that bind only with chemicals that emit an odor. If these proteins come into contact with an odor, a small amount of electricity is generated. The team succeeded in artificially reproducing this chemical reaction.