Genes on the move help nose make sense of scents

Phys.org | January 09, 2019

The human nose can distinguish one trillion different scents an extraordinary feat that requires 10 million specialized nerve cells, or neurons, in the nose, and a family of more than 400 dedicated genes. But precisely how these genes and neurons work in concert to pick out a particular scent has long puzzled scientists. This is in large part because the gene activity inside each neuron—where each of these 10 million neurons only chooses to activate one of these hundreds of dedicated genes—seemed far too simple to account for the sheer number of scents that the nose must parse.
But now, a Columbia study in mice has uncovered striking resourcefulness: by rearranging itself in three-dimensional space, the genome coordinates the regulation of these genes in each neuron, thereby generating the biological diversity needed to detect the scents we experience. The findings were published today in Nature. "With today's study, we've pinpointed a genomic mechanism by which a finite number of genes can ultimately help distinguish a seemingly near-infinite number of scents," said Stavros Lomvardas, Ph.D., a principal investigator at Columbia's Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute and the paper's senior author.

Spotlight

Biotechnology is technology based on biology. Biotechnology is a new field of science that has recently sprung up in the 20th century but already has multiple different brances. Some of these branches include agriculture, biofuels, pharmaceuticals and bioethics. In this infographic you will learn more about these braches and the careers avalible in biotechnology today.

Spotlight

Biotechnology is technology based on biology. Biotechnology is a new field of science that has recently sprung up in the 20th century but already has multiple different brances. Some of these branches include agriculture, biofuels, pharmaceuticals and bioethics. In this infographic you will learn more about these braches and the careers avalible in biotechnology today.

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