Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) biological engineers have found a way to mass-produce smell receptors in the laboratory, an advance that paves the way for "artificial noses" to be created and used in a variety of settings. In future work, the team plans to work with researchers worldwide, including MIT's Media Lab and Department of Biology, to develop a portable microfluidic device that can identify an array of different odors.
inform November 2008, Vol. 19 (11) 749 Briefs Whirlpool Corp. (Benton Harbor, S&D News Michigan, USA) has announced that it will reduce its workforce by ap- proximately 5,000 positions by the end of 2009. In addition to the four facility closures that Whirlpool an- nounced earlier this year, Jeff M. Fettig, Whirlpool Corp. chairman and chief executive officer, said the company is also closing its Jackson, Tennessee, facility and transferring production to its Findlay, Ohio lo- cation. The reduction in force of ap- proximately 5,000 jobs is being im- plemented across the global orga- nization. The reduction includes both jobs that have already been announced through plant closures and new reductions taking place now and through the end of 2009. nnn FMC Corp. (Philadelphia, Pennsyl- vania, USA) has announced that its Board of Directors has autho- rized the repurchase of up to $250 hydrophobic Now, it’s finally available as a raw mate- rial for people to utilize, and should enable million of the company’s common proteins advance many new studies into smell research,” said Brian Cook, who just defended his stock. The new $250 million share repurchase program is in addition “smell” research MIT Ph.D. thesis based on this work. Smell is one of the most complex and to the $250 million program that Massachusetts Institute of Technology least-understood senses. Humans have a has been active since April 2007. (MIT) biological engineers have found a vast olfactory system that includes close to The authorization gives manage- way to mass-produce smell receptors in the 400 functional genes, more than are dedi- ment discretion in determining con- laboratory, an advance that paves the way cated to any other function. That variety of ditions under which shares may be for “artificial noses” to be created and used receptors allows humans to discern tens of purchased from time to time. The in a variety of settings. The work could thousands of distinct odors. Each odor acti- share repurchase program does also allow scientists to unlock the mystery vates multiple receptors and this pattern of not include a specific timetable or of how the sense of smell can recognize a activation creates a signature that the brain price targets and may be suspend- seemingly infinite range of odors. can recognize as a particular scent. ed or terminated at any time. “Smell is perhaps one of the oldest and The olfactory receptors that bind to nnn most primitive senses, but nobody really odor molecules are membrane proteins, At the Annual Shareholders Meet- understands how it works. It still remains a which span the cell surface. Since cell ing of perfume and flavor business tantalizing enigma,” said Shuguang Zhang, membranes are composed of a bilayer of Firmenich International SA, held associate director of MIT’s Center for Bio- fatty lipid molecules, the receptor proteins medical Engineering and senior author of are highly hydrophobic. in Geneva, Switzerland, Firmenich a paper on the work appearing in the Pro- When such proteins are removed from Chairman Jean-Marc Bruel con- ceedings of the National Academy of Sci- the cell and placed in water-based solu- firmed his desire to retire from ences (PNAS 105:15726–15731, 2008). tions, they clump up and lose their struc- the Board of Directors, after eight Until now, efforts to understand the ture, said Liselotte Kaiser, lead author of years in office. molecular basis of smell have been sty- the PNAS pap
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