Thanks to perfect scientific discoveries and medical technologies developed on their basis, today deaf people have an opportunity to hear, and blind people — to see. Cochlear implants have been used for many years to compensate for hearing loss, and genetic engineering has been used to restore vision. It seems that scientists do not think at all about people who have lost their sense of smell, but this is not so — scientists from Harvard University have become one step closer to creating an electric implant for the nose.
Hearing AIDS allow people to hear sounds by electrically stimulating certain groups of nerves. In particular, we are talking about the activation of the auditory analyzer, which subsequently transmits information about the sounds to the brain. In the same way, scientists want to return the ability to smell to patients, but the nasal implant will affect other nerves.
To test the possibility of creating such a device, the researchers recruited a group of people aged 43 to 72 years. The main selection criterion was a high degree of susceptibility to odors. Candidates proved their suitability by passing a test where they had to recognize 40 different odors.
Electrodes were placed in the nasal cavities of the subjects. They were used to stimulate the nerves of the olfactory bulb, which is located in the intracranial cavity, just below the frontal lobe. Electric impact allowed subjects to feel the odors of onions and vegetables, though with them they were not.
According to Professor Eric Holbrooke, who participated in the development of technology, currently scientists can not help patients with loss of smell. Nevertheless, the experiment proved the effectiveness of the method they invented.
To create a nasal implant scientists need to come up with a device that is able to recognize the smell molecules of the surrounding products and objects. They hope that someday he will be able to stimulate the nerve endings so that exactly convey the smells.