LOSING YOUR SENSES
Covid-19 got your tongue (and your nose)?
What a bland life we would live if everything we ate tasted like cardboard and had no scent.
One of the most well-known symptoms of Covid-19 is the loss of our sense of smell, otherwise known as anosmia. This often goes hand in hand with the loss of taste (AKA ageusia). Most patients get these senses back a couple of weeks after recovering from the coronavirus. However, there are some who, after months of experiencing these symptoms, have yet to regain their senses of smell and taste.
What Covid-19 does to your senses
For the most part, scientists still haven’t figured out why Covid-19 causes anosmia and ageusia.
At first, they worried that the virus was reaching patients’ brains through the nose, but this was later shown to be unlikely. Rather, it seems more plausible that the cells in the nose are affected — either by the virus itself or by the body’s immune response — which then disrupts neuronal signalling to the brain. However, this is still just a theory at this point.
Scientists are even more in the dark when it comes to Covid-19-induced ageusia.
We can’t smell danger
It’s not just about not being able to enjoy food anymore! There are quite a number of negative effects that can arise from these symptoms.
An inability to smell means you can’t smell rotten food or even more dangerous odours like gas leaks. And if you don’t enjoy eating, your appetite is sure to diminish and you’re also more likely to become undernourished.
Studies have also shown that the loss of smell and taste in the time of the pandemic is linked to the onset of symptoms of depression and anxiety. This isn’t surprising, given the role of our noses in memory formation, and thus emotional response.
Unfortunately, the lack of understanding surrounding this issue also means that there’s very little information on how to solve the problem. We can only hope that a more concrete cure will be found than what’s been tested so far.
5 Singaporean stories to catch up on
1️⃣ Considering IVF? The Ministry of Health is looking at ways to subsidise part of the embryo-screening process for couples in need.
2️⃣ Miss belting out songs with your friends? Selected karaoke lounges might not need patrons to undergo the Covid-19 swab test anymore.
3️⃣ Don’t be fussy! Singaporeans will not be able to choose which Covid-19 vaccine they receive.
4️⃣ Can’t stand the heat? A team in NUS has developed a material that can absorb sweat 6 times faster than conventional clothing materials.
5️⃣ You go, girls! An all-female team from Singapore Polytechnic has won Huawei’s global ICT competition with their smart glasses for Alzheimer’s patients.
And 5 facts to spice up your life:
1️⃣ Why, mozzies, why? There is a new strain of drug-resistant malaria in Africa.
2️⃣ Ferrets first! Last year, ferrets in Colorado were given an experimental Covid-19 vaccine to protect them from the virus.
3️⃣ Quarantine, my old friend: England and Scotland are set to go back into lockdown as the number of cases in the UK rises.
4️⃣ Malaysia’s meat men: 4 individuals have been arrested over the scandal surrounding the alleged meat cartel syndicate in Malaysia.
5️⃣ Validating your wanderlust: A new study shows that frequent travel can increase your happiness by 7%.
MOTHS AND ROBOTS
Have you heard of the Smellicopter?
A team of engineers and scientists at the University of Washington has built a drone with the ability to smell. Aptly named the Smellicopter, it’s basically a regular drone with a live moth antenna attached to it.
Before you get all up in arms about moth rights, please know that the moths were anaesthetized in a refrigerator before one of their antennae was removed. The live antennae were able to stay biologically active for up to 4 hours after removal.
When technology meets nature
The team had noted that no man-made sensors could even come close to the sensitivity of organic senses. That’s when they came up with a way to make use of the best of both worlds. They knew that the cells in a moth antenna were able to amplify chemical signals in the air and that the process was super-efficient. But they were hardly going to be able to mind-control a moth to go where they wanted it to go.
Instead, the team connected a single moth antenna to an electrical circuit in order to build an antenna sensor that could then be mounted on a drone. And rather than pilot the drone remotely, they programmed it to be able to detect obstacles and know what smells to look out for.
A life-saver in the making
Inspired by flying animals and their ability to sense chemical plumes in the air, the team behind the Smellicopter developed this bio-hybrid drone to hopefully aid in tasks like detecting gas leaks or explosives or even finding survivors in the event of a natural disaster. Imagine that — this little guy could be saving lives someday!
Weird & Wonderful
- Falling asleep is the one thing we’ve done thousands of times and still regularly have difficulty doing.
- Every toothache you ever had was all in your head.
- Diced cucumber, tomato and green pepper in a bowl is a fruit salad.
- Googling N95 some years ago returned only a Nokia phone.
- We are giant blood balloons.
PICTURES OF THE DAY
Images of Susan Potter taken from National Geographic.
Ever wondered how you can live forever?
Meet Susan Potter, the woman who has achieved virtual immortality by donating her body to science. Born in Leipzig, Germany, she moved to New York after World War II, where she was a disability rights activist.
In 2000, Potter’s determination to contribute to the scientific field led to her signing on with the Visible Human Project. At the time, doctors (and Potter herself) thought that she only had one year left to live. However, she went on to live a further 15 years — talk about underestimating yourself!
During this time, National Geographic closely followed her advocation for and participation in the project. This culminated in an 18-minute documentary all about her motivations for joining the project and what her involvement entailed.
The Visible Human Project is an effort run by the US National Library of Medicine that hopes to create a data set of human cross-sections to be used in anatomy visualization. They currently have 2 data sets — one male, and one female — from the 1990s.
By signing on with the project, Potter was agreeing to have her entire body frozen and then sliced 27,000 times to gather images for a new data set. This process began after she passed away from pneumonia in 2015. When the project is done, she will be the world’s most detailed and high-definition virtual cadaver. Her contributions will help in the training of current and future doctors for years to come.