• A team from New York City University has received funding from the US Department of Defense to develop rats with super-sensitive noses
  • The rats will be given a DNA that can detect explosives and potentially uncover land mines
  • The project was approved by the US Military after scientists created genetically modified “super-sniffer” mice that can be programmed to detect any specific smells

NEW YORK – Rats are being genetically modified by US military-funded researchers in order to give them super-sensitive noses that will be capable of sniffing out land mines.

Jon Von-Radowitz mentioned in an article for Mirror Co UK that the project was approved by the US Military after scientists created genetically modified “super-sniffer” mice that can be programmed to detect any specific smells.

During a laboratory experiment, the mice were given a DNA that increased their sensitivity to a sweet-smelling chemical and tiny traces of an unpleasant odor they tried to avoid.

Because of that trial, the team from New York City University has received funding from the US Department of Defense to develop rats with the same ability, but this time, the DNA will be specific so that it can detect explosives and potentially uncover land mines.

Reports said some possible extra benefit of the research includes a “nose-on-a-chip” that can diagnose diseases from their smell.

“We have produced biosensors with an enhanced inherent sense of smell, which can be applied to address global health and safety challenges such as identification of explosives, contraband searches, and odor-based disease diagnosis,” said Dr. Paul Feinstein, a biologist and the lead scientist for the study.

Feinstein explained that mammal noses contain a large collection of sensory neurons, each of them equipped with a single chemical sensor or “receptor” that detects a specific smell. As a group, the neurons have an even distribution of receptors sensitive to a broad range of odors.

An article by Michael Price for Science Magazine said the experimental mice have extra copies of a particular selected receptor, making them especially sensitive to a single smell.

During one behavioral test, animals with heightened sensitivity to an unpleasant odor were observed avoiding the smell in the water. The genetically-modified rats were to detect far fainter traces of the odor as compared to those mice without super-sniffer abilities.

“The animals could smell the odor better because of the increased presence of the receptor,” said co-author Dr. Charlotte D’Hulst, who is also from New York City University.