Olfactory receptors exist not only in the nose, but also in many other parts of the body, including the liver, the prostate, and the intestines. A research group headed by Professor Hanns Hatt from the Ruhr-Universität Bochum in Germany has now demonstrated the presence of olfactory receptors in white blood cells in humans. Together with colleagues from the Essen University Hospital, the Bochum-based group identified the olfactory receptor 2AT4 (OR2AT4) in a cultivated cell line, taken from patients suffering from chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). The researchers identified the same receptor in white blood cells isolated from blood freshly obtained from patients suffering from acute myeloid leukemia (AML). OR2AT4 is activated by Sandalore, a synthetic odorant with a sandalwood aroma. In leukemia patients, too many immature blood cells form in the spinal marrow. In myeloid leukemia patients, the uncontrolled proliferation is triggered by a certain type of progenitor cells, namely the myeloblasts. The researchers analyzed OR2AT4 in more detail, both in the cultivated cells and in the cells isolated from the blood of patients suffering from AML. If the Sandalore odorant was used to activate the receptor, this effected an inhibition of leukemia cell growth and caused greater numbers of the leukemia cells to die. The researchers, moreover, observed that more red blood cells formed as a result. “This could be a new starting point for the development of leukemia treatment,” says Professor Hatt. “Acute myeloid leukemia in particular is a disease for which specific medication is not, as yet, available.” With his colleagues, Professor Hatt describes the results in the journal Cell Death Discovery.
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