Stories tagged nose

Dude! No!: Aaargh! It's too late! Might as well get a job as a crime scene cleaner now.
Dude! No!: Aaargh! It's too late! Might as well get a job as a crime scene cleaner now.Courtesy Dimmerswitch
Check it out: The Food and Drug Administration is recommending that people avoid Zicam. Why? Because it may cause you to lose your precious sense of smell.

Zicam (Zicam nasal gel in particular) is a popular homeopathic cold remedy. (I say it's popular because the NY Times says so, and because I vaguely remember seeing a bottle of it lying around my living room this winter.) You stick it up your nose, and blast away. It's got zinc, galphimia glauca, histamine dihydrochloride, luffa opercolata, and sulfur in it. These ingredients are reported by some people to reduce the length or severity of the common cold (although the virus remains incurable).

Over the last several years, hundreds of people have reported that use of Zicam has destroyed their sense of smell. The manufacturers of Zicam paid out $12 million to some of these people in 2006, although their attitude in general has been, "Well, y'all have the cold. What did you expect to smell?"

The FDA, on the other hand, has pointed to the connection between zinc in other nasally administered drugs, and the loss of the sense of smell, or "anosmia." They're all, "Hey, everybody, stop using Zicam if you want to continue smelling things forever. And, Zicam people, cut it out. We need our smells."

And the Zicam people are all, "Whatever. If anybody wants their money back, just ask. Otherwise, enjoy some more Zicam!"

What does everybody think? Fans of Zicam out there? Is the possible risk associated with this homeopathic remedy insignificant compared to any problems associated with conventional cold symptom medications? Anybody lose their sense of smell from Zicam? Anybody lose their sense of smell from, like, anything?

Let's have it.

Mmmm, that smells good: New research concludes that T-rex dinosaurs had an excellent sense of smell.
Mmmm, that smells good: New research concludes that T-rex dinosaurs had an excellent sense of smell.Courtesy ArthurWeasley
One of the first things I learned in my time here at the museum is that everything we know about dinosaurs we learn from the fossil record. Since then, we've posted numerous stories here about non-fossilized factors to dinosaurs. Here's another story that challenges the fossil record assertion. Researchers have discovered that T-Rex dinosaurs very likely had an extraordinary sense of smell. Click hear to learn how they've figured that out.


Old-school smeller: This is how we process smells today. With new advancements in receptor protein cell development, we might someday have artificial noses to help with that work.
Old-school smeller: This is how we process smells today. With new advancements in receptor protein cell development, we might someday have artificial noses to help with that work.Courtesy LHOON
That old beak on the front of our face might be in for some serious competition in the future.

Our nose has held exclusive rights on sniffing out the multitude of odors that swirl around us. But with this latest scientific breakthrough, it might be given a run for its money.

Researchers at MIT have figured out how to mass produce the receptor proteins that make up the cells that work in as the receptors in our nose that begin the process of the sense of smell. With further development, these receptor cells could be used in the development of artificial noses. Taking that futuristic thinking a few steps further down the line, an artificial nose could have applications in area like law enforcement, where they could be used to sniff out illegal drugs or explosives. In home security, an artificial nose could be helpful in identifying natural gas leaks or the start of an unintended fire.

Here are the full details of the research. But it’s got me thinking, what other good purposes might there be for artificial noses? Let’s get the ball rolling right here on the Buzz. Share your thoughts with other readers.


Heyo!: The best day of my life.
Heyo!: The best day of my life.Courtesy JGordon
So, hey, get a load of this: my face is bleeding, y’all!

I know what you’re thinking: “That’s great, JGordon, but what good does it do me? How can my face be more like your face?”

Good question, Buzzketeer, but I don’t know the answer. Why not?

Because it’s a mystery!

So let’s look at the clues:
Clue #1) A fluid seems to be coming out of my face, via the nostrils.
Clue #2) The fluid has the color, taste, and temperature of blood, so it is most likely blood.
Clue #3) The episode began in the bathtub.

Not a lot to go on, but I’ve tackled trickier cases before. The Case of the Missing Mac & Cheese, for one, was almost entirely devoid of physical evidence, and yet I was able to confidently declare the perpetrator (and I will never forgive you, Brother).

Let’s start with what we have. Fluid from the facial region can result from any number of conditions. Sadness, for example. But I’m very rarely sad while in the tub, so that’s out. The fact that the fluid seemed to be blood (lab tests are pending, but I’m fairly certain that it was blood) indicates “epistaxis,” or the nosebleed.

The nosebleed, eh? But how could this have happened? Time for phase 2 of our little investigation: The Whys and Wherefores. Get the usual suspects together.

Suspect #1) A sharp blow to the face—Um, no, I think I would remember that. That didn’t happen.

Suspect #2) Nasal sprays, or nasal prong O2—No, no sprays were administered prior to face bleeding, nor did I have a nasal prong inserted.

Suspect #3) Co-co-cocaine!—Nope. I’m afraid that I don’t do coke. And I think that that might be a tricky proposition in the tub anyway. I’ll have to watch Scarface again.

Suspect #4) Nosepicking—Ho ho! Now we’re getting closer to home! But, no, I only pick my nose at parties. As fun as bath time is, it’s no party.

Suspect #5) Low humidity—I don’t know. I mean, I was in the tub, and it was full of hot water. Probably no.

Suspect #6) Intranasal tumors—Oh, goodness gracious! But a simple test confirms that I can still breath freely from both nostrils. Probably no tumors there.

Suspect #7) Inflammatory reaction—Hmm… like allergies? I don’t have much in the way of allergies, but I’ve been known to sniffle and sneeze now and again. What if there was something irritating in the house…like everything I own that is never dusted (everything I own)…and what if this natural irritant was combined with vigorous facial scrubbing. Perhaps that could cause the rupture of an anterior nasal blood vessel, and subsequent hemorrhaging.

Or it could be, as Wikipedia says, “a significant number of nosebleeds occur with no obvious cause.” Whatever.

Case closed? Just about. But how to get this thing to stop, how to shut off the blood faucet (as the doctors say)?

Just pinch the nose, okay? And if anyone tells you to tilt your head back, try to sneeze blood on them—tilting your head just ensures that the blood drains into your mouth and stomach, instead of onto their carpet.


Alzheimer's sniffer?: Are declining abilities to sense certain smells a sign that Alzheimer's disease is coming? Some researchers think it might be a possibility.
Alzheimer's sniffer?: Are declining abilities to sense certain smells a sign that Alzheimer's disease is coming? Some researchers think it might be a possibility.
While lost memories are the most evident sign of full-blown Alzheimer’s disease, new research is showing that our nose may be able to detect the onset of the dreaded condition.

A new study is targeting our sense of smell as being one of the first things to be impacted by Alzheimer’s. An easy scratch-and-sniff test might be the key to discovering the start of the condition in a person.

Through a five-year study, 150 people with memory loss had their noses’ effectiveness tested and compared with similar results in 63 healthy adults. The test was to have all of them identify ten specific smells – lemon, strawberry, smoke, soap, menthol, clove, pineapple, natural gas, lilac and leather.

What the researchers found was that the same percentage of people who had difficulty identifying the smells matched closely to the same percentage of people who develop Alzheimer’s through research that’s conducted by using MRI scans to measure brain volume loss.

While there’s not a direct correlation between the smell test and brain testing, researchers think it could be a good tool for doctors to use in monitoring the possible start of Alzheimer’s. Patients who do poorly on the smell test could go through more extensive testing that might find some early signs of the disease.

And while there is no cure, there are drugs and treatments that can slow down the progress of Alzheimer’s in the body. The sooner signs of the condition are discovered, the quicker slow-down action can be taken.

How does this all smell to you? Share your thoughts here with other Science Buzz readers.


Yes, we do smell in stereo. So are you left-nostriled or right-nostriled?

According to the findings of a new study, humans (along with a lot of other mammals) compare the scents that come into their nose through each nostril to make more refined decisions as to what they’re smelling. And the research conducted on the study sounds like it would have been a lot of fun to participate in.

College students were blindfolded and asked to crawl through grassy fields, using their noses to find a chocolate-scented trail.

Their task was to follow a 30-foot-long path of twine that had been scented with chocolate. The students were blindfolded, gloved and geared up with knee and elbow pads so that they could not feel the twine as they sniffed their way for the chocolate course. They also had ear plugs to shut of that sense as well.

Before hitting the grass, they were shown a quick video of proper sniffing technique of putting their nose to the ground. Evidently most humans are adverse to poking their nose into the ground.

An amazing two-thirds of the participants were able to smell their way through the dog-legged course. But with one of their nostrils plugged, nobody was able to find their way to the end of the chocolate twine.

Armed with these findings, researchers are now figuring that our brain compares the information it gets from each nostril to decipher where and from what the smell is coming. That’s very similar to what our ears and eyes do in processing information about sound and sight.

But for a long time, it was considered that the nose worked as a single sense researcher since the nostrils are located so close together on a nose. Could there really be that much difference in the smells going in one nostril compared to the other?
The findings of the nostril research are published on the website of the journal Nature Neuroscience and will be expanded on in the January issue of that journal.

The chocolate in the grass experiment was just one of five tests done on the nostril theory. Another experiment tracked the paths that tiny bits of theatrical fog took as they were breathed in by study participants.

Armed with this new data, researchers will be fine-tuning their next experiments to get even more specific on how our noses actually work. They’ll be taking a look at questions like does our brain actually detect two separate aromas from our nostrils. Or does having two nostrils taking in a smell give us a stronger concentration of the smell to be able to process more detailed information about the smell.

Smells like some more fun experiments on the horizon. What kind of experiment would you design to figure out more about how our noses work?