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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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April 29, 2010

The Scent of Food Is Enough?

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Posted by Derek

Here's something I never knew: odors can regulate lifespan. Well, in fruit flies, anyway - a group at Baylor published results in 2007 showing that exposure to food-derived odors (yeast smells, in the case of Drosophila) partially cancels out the longevity-inducing effects of caloric restriction. Normally fed flies showed no effect.

That 2007 paper identified a specific sensory receptor (Or83b) as modulating the effect of odor on lifespan. Now comes a report that another receptor has been tracked down in this case, the G-protein coupled Gr63a. Flies missing this particular olfactory GPCR no longer show the lifespan sensitivity to yeast odors. This narrows things down. Or83b mutations seem to broadly affect sensory response in flies, but this is a much more specific receptor, just one of a great many similar ones:

"Unlike previous reports involving more general olfactory manipulations, extended longevity via loss of Gr63a occurs through a mechanism that is likely independent of dietary restriction. We do, however, find that Gr63a is required for odorants from live yeast to affect longevity, suggesting that with respect to lifespan, CO2 is an active component of this complex odor. Because Gr63a is expressed in a highly specific population of CO2-sensing neurons (the ab1C neurons) that innervate a single glomerulus in the antennal lobe (the V glomerulus), these data implicate a specific sensory cue and its associated neurosensory circuit as having the ability to modulate fly lifespan and alter organismal stress response and physiology. Our results set the stage for the dissection of more complex neurosensory and neuroendocrine circuits that modulate aging in Drosophila. . ."

It's going to be very interesting to follow that neuronal pathway - I've no idea where it will lead, but we're bound to learn something worthwhile. To make a wild generalization straight up to humans, this makes me wonder about people who are practicing caloric restriction on themselves - they're still exposed to food odors all the time, right? Does the same reversal apply? For me, I think that the scent of barbecue and fried catfish might be enough to do it right there, but keep in mind that I'm from Arkansas. Your mileage may vary.

Comments (10) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Aging and Lifespan | Biological News


1. MattF on April 29, 2010 8:46 AM writes...

This is just fascinating. Next, how about exposure to sunlight? Will the caloric-restriction => extended-lifespan advocates retreat to coffins during the day, and only come out at night?

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2. Anonymous on April 29, 2010 9:05 AM writes...

"Together these data implicate a specific sensory cue (CO2) and its associated receptor as having the ability to modulate fly lifespan and alter organism stress response and physiology."

Now, how about all this C02 emmisions global warming and oil industry ?

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3. HelicalZz on April 29, 2010 9:10 AM writes...

So, when can we expect the aroma therapy people to start pitching their products for weight loss and longevity?

And for those of you enjoying a McDonald's salad, sorry to inform you but ....


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4. p on April 29, 2010 9:36 AM writes...

There is a fairly large number of people who have no sense of smell. I wonder what their lifespan is like?

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5. Anonymous on April 29, 2010 9:46 AM writes...

And for those of you enjoying a McDonald's salad, sorry to inform you but ....

Sounds like you only have to go past, I can usually smell McDs across the parking lot.

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6. Vlad Konings on April 29, 2010 11:00 AM writes...

My father, who was diabetic, used to claim that he could pick up a dangerous glycemic load just by being present at a taffy pull. By osmosis.

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7. Baxter on April 29, 2010 11:37 AM writes...

This discovery explains why, despite heavy exposure to carcinogens and solvents, the typical university professor lives to be a ripe old bast-*rd.

Most organic chemists I know have a compromised sense of smell.

Do organic chemists live longer?

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8. enzgrrl on April 29, 2010 11:58 AM writes...

So once you've smelled the food, you may as well go ahead and eat it?

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9. DLIB on April 29, 2010 12:20 PM writes...

Not that you mentioned even smells in humans triggers the anticipation of a meal and physiological preparation for it ensues ( salivating for instance...) other physiological responses also occur in preparation. that some of these would bump up against the caloric restriction lifespan enhancement and have some effect is not that big a stretch of the imagination.

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10. Medicamenta vera on April 29, 2010 6:58 PM writes...

I love the smell of McD fries, but can see the class action suit coming like a juggernaught.

BTW, my greatfather from Pangburn Arkansas lived to be 94 on BBQ and catfish as well as cornbread. Maybe it desensitized the Or83b mammalian Ozarkian orthologue.

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