Facebook PixelDecreasing body weight via temporary ablation of the sense of smell
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Decreasing body weight via temporary ablation of the sense of smell

Decreasing body weight via temporary ablation of the sense of smell

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By Shubhankar Kulkarni on Aug 19, 2020

[1] Riera CE, Tsaousidou E, Halloran J, Follett P, Hahn O, Pereira MMA, et al. The Sense of Smell Impacts Metabolic Health and Obesity. Cell Metab [Internet]. 2017 Jul;26(1):198-211.e5. Available from: https://linkinghub.elsevier.com/retrieve/pii/S1550413117303571

Subash Chapagain 19 days ago

Given the ever-increasing figures of obesity and related disorders all across the world, such a novel approach to lower the body weight indeed would be highly useful. It is true that when something smells 'so good', we are always tempted to 'taste' it even if we are not nutritionally deficient. Everything after that is a slippery slope, given the dopamine reward system that we are so poor at inhibiting. Hence, a biological solution like olfactory ablation would be hugely beneficial, if it could be developed effectively. However, there are some critically important issues we need to address before considering applying this kind of desensitization to humans. Here are a few: 1. What exact sensory mechanisms are we targeting to inhibit the sense of smell? How do we plan to do it? Will it be transient or a long-lasting one? 2. Olfactory reception is one of the most complex biological sensing machinery ever to exist; hence, while ablating the sense of smell, how can we be specific enough to exactly pinpoint which biomolecules (mainly transmembrane proteins) to target? 3. Olfactory Receptors (OR) family of genes is one of the largest multigene family known to the mammalian system. The fact in itself is sufficient for a healthy dose of skepticism to think very critically before deciding to shut the whole system down just to meet one target of reducing the body weight. Most of the genes involved in these signalling pathways are homologous across other systems as well. For example, some of the receptors involved in sensing of smell are G-protein Coupled Receptor (GPCR) family of protein which also is the family of proteins like Rhodopsin that are involved in light sensing and visual perception. Hence, to guarantee that all kinds of cross-silencing are avoided, what molecular tools do we need to develop first? 4. The olfactory system is responsible not only for the food-related sensory signalling but also has a lot of social and behavioural implications. We know that sense of smell is very important evolutionarily when it comes to determining cues about possible partner for mating, and also for mother-child bonding. Hence, while we go on to ablate the sense of smell, can we guarantee that we will have no negative impact on these evolutionary and behavioural uses of the system? 5. How do we determine the selectivity of silencing? There are good smells that make us want to eat more, but also there are pungent smells that let us know of potential toxicity and obnoxious environment. Given that there is an infinite range of molecular combination out in the environment and hence an infinite number of smells that we might encounter, how do we target which smell to allow and which not to? If we can answer these questions with an approximated confidence, then this solution would be one of the best that exists when it comes to body-weight loss and the fight against obesity relate diseases. References: 1. Niimura Y. Evolutionary dynamics of olfactory receptor genes in chordates: interaction between environments and genomic contents. Hum Genomics. 2009;4(2):107-118. doi:10.1186/1479-7364-4-2-107 2. Sarafoleanu C, Mella C, Georgescu M, Perederco C. The importance of the olfactory sense in the human behavior and evolution. J Med Life. 2009;2(2):196-198. 3. Julius D, Nathans J. Signaling by sensory receptors. Cold Spring Harb Perspect Biol. 2012;4(1):a005991. Published 2012 Jan 1. doi:10.1101/cshperspect.a005991 ...

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