2,4,6-Trichloroanisole is often the compound held responsible for the musty, unpleasant smell of 'corked' wine. But Japanese researchers from Osaka University and the Daiwa Can Company in Tokyo suggest it might not be that the compound smells bad itself. Instead, they've shown that the compound shuts down the signalling of sensory cells in the nose. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, the team explains that the molecule supresses some of the ion channels (specifically cyclic nucleotide-gated channels) used to transmit signals from olfactory receptors in the cell. So, it might not be that you are smelling a bad smell in the wine, but that you are prevented from smelling good ones. Or even, the team writes, that the loss of sensory information may lead to imaginary musty smells, or 'pseudo-olfactory sensations'. The findings might eventually help to develop new compounds to mask bad smells, they conclude.
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