“The idea in preclinical trials is to turn down the sensitivity of mechanosensory neurons without gumming up the sensory channels themselves by instead modulating the activity of mec-2 to relieve chronic pain,” Norris said. “By doing so perhaps, mec-2 can be used as a “sensory thermostat” to turn sensory activity up or down.”
More Research on the Horizon
However, Norris says that this theory warrants further research.
“Thus far, experiments have been done in C. elegans and mice that agree with each other. It is natural to hypothesize that similar results will hold in humans,” he said. “But that needs to be proven.”
Final Thoughts on How Genetics Determines the Sense of Touch and Smell
Recent SMU research found that a gene that influences the sense of touch may also dictate the sense of smell. They studied the worm Caenorhabditis elegans since its nervous system compares with the human nervous system. The team determined that the mec-2 gene functions similarly to the stomatin gene in humans, which plays a role in the sense of touch and smell.
They hope that the research may eventually lead to a therapeutic drug to treat loss of smell in those with COVID-19.