On average, human beings can distinguish between 2,000 and 4,000 different smells, though people with sensitive noses, like wine tasters, can acknowledge as much as 10,000 fragrance nuances.
At the moment, the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Automation IPA in Stuttgart, Germany, is creating new platform expertise that routinely produces cell-based biosensors, which might give machines a way of smell. The platform is validated initially on a product of the Californian start-up Koniku.
IPA venture manager Martin Thoma sums up the discovery: “We’re building a generic tool that can allow cell-based biological sensors for industrial use in the medium term.“ Biology and technology blend.
To allow the development of an economically usable product; The research center will develop a screening process for receptor selection and the dependable automated production of so-called transfected cells, i.e., cells in which overseas DNA or RNA is integrated.
Koniku has been growing such cells for several years now, building olfactory receptors, that are introduced in small autonomous optical selection units. The cells could be kept alive and are useful for an extended period and used to identify tiny particles from their surroundings.
Thea goal of this initiative is to engineer economically available cell-based sensors, and while strides have been made, the researches admit that there are still many unanswered queries. To determine the proper olfactory receptor for a specific application; several thousand receptors and their combos must be screened. For this procedure to become economical, a platform is required that makes it possible to modify cells robotically, i.e., transfect them and then examine them for their particular reaction to smells and tastes.
With such a transfection and screening platform, it will be possible to change the cells in a short time for various olfactory stimuli and thus to open up different areas of application, like medical diagnostics.