Scientists have mice genetically altered so that they can smell landmines. The mouse, named MouSensor, could be used against landmines.
In more than seventy countries there are still active landmines. That makes the local population to live the effects of war even after a period of war. One way to clear the landmines is Belgian Hero Rats . The rats of the Belgian NGO Apopo are trained and conditioned to smell landmines as you can watch on the video. Two rats can do it on a leash in less than two hours combing an area of 300 square meters. The disadvantage of this method is that you have to train rats for nine months.
Researchers at Hunter College in New York now created a genetically modified mouse that is hypersensitive to the specific smell of TNT in landmines. Scientists recently found a receptor in the olfactory flask (a group of nerve cells in the nose of animals smell detects) recognizes the specific chemical DNT. It is a less explosive version of TNT, but bears the same scent. The researchers altered genes such that the mouse had much more DNT receptors in the nose. A normal mouse has 10 million, and 4,000 of these are specialized in a specific smell. The American scientists were able to increase the number of neurons specialized in DNT. The animal, according to the researchers can detect the smell 500 times better now. The results will be presented at a conference of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans.
The mice are as yet untested in the field, and it remains to be seen how MouSensor makes clear that he smells something. “Because of its extreme sensitivity, he will probably get some kind of seizure when he TNT smells, “says researcher Charlotte D’Hulst to The Guardian.”So many neurons fire developed in parallel. We are thinking of implant that detects TNT when the behavior of the mouse changes by a chip in the skin of the mouse . “That is the signal for the human deminer there to make the explosive in a harmless way. The mice themselves are not at risk because they are too light to detonate a mine.
For D’Hulst and her colleagues, it is mainly to test the principle. So you would be able to detect tuberculosis in the breath of patients with genetically modified mice also. The bacteria that cause TB namely emit substances in saliva samples which can be detected.