The quest for the ultimate artificial nose
is still underway, and thanks to a major breakthrough by the folks over at MIT, it might be sooner than later that we're all unwrapping stylish sniffers under the Christmas tree. More importantly, the fruits of MIT's RealNose project could replace drug and explosive-sniffing dogs as well as detect certain medical conditions via the odors emitted. Up to now, the tricky part of studying the sense of smell has been in isolating proteins (olfactory receptors) to get a good look at how they work. But in this latest development, researchers are now able to produce specific receptors using wheat germ.
Engineered mammalian cells can be used to the same effect. What makes this so great is, while the human nose is relatively limited in what it can detect, this discovery could unlock the potential to detect an almost infinite range of odors. G.I. Joe with "action nose" here we come.