BERKELEY (KCBS) — Researchers at UC Berkeley have uncovered a link between the sense of smell and burning calories, in a study of genetically-engineered mice.

The study by stem cell researcher Andrew Dillin and his colleagues found mice that couldn’t smell the fat they were eating burned it, and those with a really good sense of smell stored it.

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Dillin says the mice were eating the same amount of food.

“And that was one experiment. And the second experiment we did the reverse,” Dillin said. “We actually made mice get fat and then blocked their sense of smell. And what we found that they had lost weight almost immediately. The weight that they lost wasn’t muscle mass, not bone mass, only fat mass.”

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The next step, Dillin said, would be to find out if humans’ sense of smell correlates with weight gain.

If it does, people who need to lose or gain weight could have their sense of smell adjusted — temporarily — for as long as it takes to rewire their metabolism.

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The study is published in this week’s journal Cell Metabolism.