Nanobiosensors could be next step for cosmetics testing
Researchers say that ultimately electronic noses based on natural
olfactory receptors could be used to hone the exact smell, according to
product and consumer requirements. Furthermore it could also help
manufacturers determine what are the most attractive odours.
The new interdisciplinary technology approach has been developed and
tested by researchers in Spain, France and Italy with funding from the
European Commission's Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) initiative
of the IST programme, and could also serve a variety of industries,
including the health service.
"The potential uses of smell technology are endless," said Josep
Samitier, the coordinator of the SPOT-NOSED project that developed
nanobiosensors to mimic the way human and animal noses respond to
The researchers claim that the nose biosensor is capable of
detecting odours at concentration that would be imperceptible to the
This has been achieved by placing a layer of proteins that
constitute the olfactory receptors in animal noses on a microelectrode.
Data is then measured by determining the reaction when the proteins
come into contact with different odorants.
"Our tests showed that the nanobiosensors will react to a few
molecules of odorant with a very high degree of accuracy. Some of the
results of the trials surpassed even our expectations," Samitier said.
He adds that the tiny bioelectronic sensors represent a 'major leap
forward' in smell technology and a clear example of a biomimetic
devices obtained by converging Nano-Bio-Info technologies.
The SPOT-NOSED researchers genetically copied several hundred
different proteins from rats, which they claim is enough to determine
almost any type of smell due to the resultant number of reactions the
In turn, nanotechnology makes this electronic nose feasible, the
Samiter added, even though the human nose uses 1,000 different proteins
to allow the brain to recognize 10,000 different smells.
While the project has to date focused on replicating the physical
reaction that takes place in animal noses to determine odours, the
researchers say that their next step will be to develop an electronic
nose that recognizes smells using high accuracy electronic
instrumentation on a nanoscale level.