A new biosensor, whose ability to smell exceeds that of humans, could pave the way for the development of a whole new breed of biosensors that can diagnose problems with a sniff. The breakthrough was achieved under the leadership of an Indian-origin researcher. The biosensor’s functioning is based on the fact that every odor possesses a specific pattern. By distinguishing these inherent patterns, the nose is able to tell one odor from another.
A machine that needs to accomplish this relies on a combination of proteins that are joined to transistors. With this, machines can tell the difference between two smells that bear a resemblance to one another. These are known as chiral molecules. This is the first time such a feat has been achieved, according to news reports.
The human nose is able to distinguish between different molecules that are similar to each other, but when present in disparate forms, can take on a different odor. Machines from the earlier generation weren’t evolved enough to spot this difference.
However, with this new development, a whole new generation of highly sensitive biosensors can be created. With their acute sense of smell, they can virtually ‘sniff’ out problems. Equipped with this advantage, the new-generation biosensors can be utilized for a variety of industrial uses, such as determining the level of pollution by ‘smelling’ the air.
This breakthrough was achieved by researchers from the UK’s University of Manchester and the Italy-based University of Bari in Italy. The teams have been successful in creating a biosensor that makes use of a special protein that binds odors – in the human body, they occur in the mucus lining of the nose. The pioneering move came after researchers found a way to artificially manufacture proteins in small quantities that could be integrated with biosensors.