Mice studies show sense of smell can be modified by mucus
A rose sniffed through a snotty nose may not smell so sweet. Enzymes in mice’s nasal mucus transform certain scents before the nose can detect them, a new study finds. The results, published December 1 in the Journal of Neuroscience, show that lowly mucus may feature prominently in the sense of smell.
“It is completely unexpected that snot would play a potential role in changing how we perceive odors,” says neuroscientist Leslie Vosshall at Rockefeller University in New York City. “Most people and most scientists pay no attention at all to mucus.”
But there’s more to mucus than what meets the nose: The thick goo that serves to lubricate the nose is teeming with proteins and protein-chopping enzymes. Some of these molecules are thought to catch smells and shuttle them to odor receptors in the nose. Other components may protect the body from toxic chemicals by chopping them up into less harmful pieces. But no one knew whethe