Maggie Bartlett, NHGRI.
Hard Science

Scientists Are Mutating Rat Genes To Turn Them Into ‘Super Sniffers’

Mutated rodents can have the ability to sniff out drugs and explosives.

Charmaine CaparasJuly 11th 2016
News
Maggie Bartlett, NHGRI.

Dogs Out-of-Employment?

K-9 dogs might soon have some competition. U.S. scientists have mutated mice so that they are “super sniffers” for drugs and explosives.

This new generation of rodents was genetically altered to track down certain scents, according to a report at scientific journal Cell Reports.

“What we think we can do is make ‘super sniffers’ for particular odors,” said co-researcher Dr.Paul Feinstein. “We trick the animals to want to pay attention to one odor over many others.”

The mutated mice were exposed to two known odors – a chemical that has a sweet smell similar to jasmine and another that smells like peppermint. It turns out they can detect lower doses of these odors than non-mutated mice.

Scientists say the next step is to apply this research to detecting drugs or explosives.

“We want to create an explosive-detecting rat or mouse – and we could also do this for narcotics such as cocaine, for example,” said lead researcher Dr.Charlotte D’Hulst. “If we can find the receptor that is activated by cocaine, we could create ‘super-sniffing’ cocaine rodents.”

Image source: BBC News
Image source: SPL

Rats For Multiple Industries

Researchers said they see the application of their study in a number of areas.

It could be used in military and defense, where the mutated rats could sniffing out TNT, the main explosive component of landmines.

The fragrance and flavour industry can also benefit from mice that are bred with human receptors for smelling particular odours by utilizing the same method for unique super rodents!

The mutated rodents could also be implanted with some sort of “bio-reactor” made up of nerve cells to sniff out human diseases from the chemical signatures they give off in blood or sweat.

As with any groundbreaking study, it will still take time before scientists could come out and give humans the mutated rat that they need. One could only remain hopeful.

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