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Research from the Department of Engineering Science finds that the genes that help you smell could also be assisting the spread of colon cancer.

Humans have around 400 “smell-sensing” genes which activate in a combination of ways to allow us to smell the ranges of smells that we do. However, the genes have been found to be expressed in parts of the body other than the nose, with their role previously remaining a mystery. Now, a new study has found that patients whose colon cancer cells show the “expression” of certain smell-sensing genes are more likely to have worse outcomes, especially those with more severe cases of cancer.

The expression of a gene is when the information that is stored in our DNA is translated into instructions for making proteins or other molecules. Gene expression can act as an on/off switch to control when proteins are made and how many. So, the expression of these smell-sensing genes means that the instructions for these particular genes are in use. The levels of the genes can be reduced by experimental techniques called “perturbations” to study the role of the gene in the cell.

Read the full story on the Department of Engineering Science website