Science!: Whales Fight Global Warming

Lauren Admire | 26 Apr 2010 17:00

Lose Sense of Smell, Live Longer

A whiff of greasy pizza or the scent of a fresh salad may directly alter how long you live. Scientists have long known that specific odors can alter an animal's lifespan - when the sense of smell was removed from nematodes and fruit flies, they lived far longer than their "Smeller" brethren. The only question was: how was the sense of smell able to affect the longevity so distinctly?

Molecular biologist, Scott Pletcher, and his team decided to find out. Using a group of fruit flies as test subjects, they removed the flies' ability to smell CO2, a scent indicative of their main food source, yeast. When the ability to smell CO2 was removed from a fruit flies olfactory system, female fruit flies lived 30 percent longer than the males. Pletcher believes the sensory switchup had no effect on the males because females are just more sensitive to CO2.

Pletcher believes that the inability to smell CO2, and thus the inability to track down food sources, put the female flies into survival mode. Specifically, female fruit flies in survival mode store extra fat and became more resistant to oxidative stress - both things that directly increased the female flies' chances of living longer than males.

Only specific smells trigger this survivalist response; in flies, it's CO2, but in humans it may be something completely different, or may not exist at all. "We definitely undergo physiological changes in response to smelling food," explains Matt Kaeberlein, who studies aging at the University of Washington in Seattle. "I'm getting hungry just thinking about it - so I think it's possible."

On a similar note, our very own Landslide has no sense of smell and will therefore likely outlive everyone else at The Escapist HQ.

Source: New Scientist

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