On the trail of a bionic nose to restore the sense of smell

Two American researchers want to give hope to all those who have lost their sense of smell, in particular through the fault of Covid-19. Objective: to create an electronic nose.

According to the WHO, 10 to 20% of people who are victims of the Sars-CoV-2 virus develop a long form of Covid-19. They will suffer from various more or less disabling symptoms, for months or even years. Loss of smell, or anosmia, is one of them. Some patients struck in 2020 have still not recovered an operational nose. Is the loss irreversible? Only time will tell.

For these millions of unfortunate people deprived of an essential meaning, the works of Richard Costanzo provide a kind of perfume of hope. For four decades, the head of the department of physiology and biophysics at the University of the Commonwealth of Virginia has been bent on treating all possible cases of anosmia. The Covid-19 gave him a new reason to fight. For several years, he has been working on a bionic process capable of completely bypassing the olfactory circuit. The ambition is immense, because a human nose has 400 different types of olfactory sensors, capable of distinguishing 1,000 billion odors.

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With his colleague Daniel Coelho, professor of otolaryngology, Richard Costanzo first worried about the choice of an odor sensor. They opted for a technology using semiconductor materials developed by other research laboratories. There is still a long way to go, because the current prototypes do not allow more than a few dozen smells.

Two olfactory bulbs

The second step […]

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