Scent-sational Molecules

Hmmm. . . What’s that smell? 


This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.


Scent is not as straightforward as you might think. Scientists have long tried to crack the code of how scent molecules interact with our noses. How does it work?


Enter Christian Billesbølle at UC San Francisco and colleagues.


Using an advanced microscope, the group was able to hone in on a scent receptor in the nose. Then, they used 3D computer modeling to visualize it. From there they were able to see how various molecules can interact with it and change it.  


Results? Almost like a piano, the molecule is able to strike certain “chords” by binding in different ways to scent receptors. They hope that by understanding the molecular makeup of scent, they can even create new smells! 


Understanding our senses shines new light into how our bodies work. It might have even developed to help us detect when food goes bad!


Now that’s nothing to sniff at!


Billesbølle, C.B., de March, C.A., van der Velden, W.J.C. et al. Structural basis of odorant recognition by a human odorant receptor. Nature, 615, 742–749 (2023).