Wake up and smell the sweat

Nov 21, 2007

Some people are oblivious to the odor in the locker room after a game, while others wrinkle their noses at the slightest whiff of sweat. Research by Prof. Doron Lancet and research student Idan Menashe of the Molecular Genetics Department, which appeared recently in PLoS Biology, has now shown that this difference is at least partly genetic.

Our sense of smell often takes a back seat to our other senses, but humans can perceive up to 10,000 different odors. Like mice, which boast a highly-developed sense of smell, we have about 1000 different genes for the smell-detecting receptors in our olfactory 'retinas.' In humans, however, over half of these genes have, in the last few million years, become defunct – some in all people, while others in just parts of the population.

Lancet and his team had their experimental volunteers sniff varying concentrations of compounds that smelled like banana, eucalyptus, spearmint or sweat, and noted the sensitivity with which the subject was able to detect the odor. They then compared the results with genetic patterns of receptor gene loss and found that one gene (OR11H7P) appeared to be associated with the capacity for smelling sweat. When participants had two genes with disrupting mutations, they were likely to be impervious to the offending odor, while those that were hypersensitive to the smell had at least one intact gene.

The scientists noted, however, that while having at least one intact OR11H7P gene might determine whether you can tell by the smell that your loved one has just come from the gym, this is not the entire story. Women were generally slightly more sensitive to many smells than men, and some individuals of both sexes were better or worse in across-the-board acuity to all odorants. Finally (as is always the case), not all was in the genes – environmental factors were seen to play a role as well.

Source: Weizmann Institute of Science

Explore further: Scientists find 6 new genetic risk factors for Parkinson's disease

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

How to make strawberries sweeter without adding calories

Jul 01, 2014

Strawberries and cream are symbolic of Wimbledon and appreciated worldwide for their oh-so-sweet flavour. Researchers at the University of Florida, including myself, studied more than 30 varieties of strawberries ...

Filling in the gaps on the protein map

May 28, 2014

Substantial progress has been made in decoding the human proteome. Under the leadership of the Technische Universität München researchers have now mapped more than 18,000 human proteins—92 percent of ...

Recommended for you

Researchers find new mechanism for neurodegeneration

Jul 24, 2014

A research team led by Jackson Laboratory Professor and Howard Hughes Investigator Susan Ackerman, Ph.D., have pinpointed a surprising mechanism behind neurodegeneration in mice, one that involves a defect in a key component ...

Schizophrenia's genetic architecture revealed (w/ Video)

Jul 23, 2014

Queensland scientists are closer to effective treatments for schizophrenia after uncovering dozens of sites across the human genome that are strongly associated with a genetic predisposition to schizophrenia.

User comments : 0