Every Person has their Own Unique Scent

First Posted: Dec 13, 2013 06:19 PM EST

Just as everyone has their own individual and unique fingerprint, so does every individual when it comes to body odor.

A recent study lead by researchers at Duke University analyzes amino acids that give off certain odors that make each person smell different.

Background information from the study notes that there are around 400 genes coding for the receptors in our noses, and according to the 1000 Genomes Project, there are more than 900,000 variations of just those genes. These receptors help us distinguish different ordor through signals fired in the brain when certain scents enter our nostrils.

However, these receptors don't all work the same way, according to lead study author Hiroaki Matsunami, Ph.D., associate professor of molecular genetics and microbiology at Duke University School of Medicine. In fact, when comparing the receptors in any two people, they found that it may be up to 30 percent different.

"There are many cases when you say you like the way something smells and other people don't. That's very common," Matsunami said. But what the researchers found is that no two people smell things the same way. "We found that individuals can be very different at the receptor levels, meaning that when we smell something, the receptors that are activated can be very different (from one person to the next) depending on your genome."

Though researchers had been uncertain of how odor receptors were activated, they were able to determine what turns the receptors on when cloning over 500 of them, each for 20 people that had slight variations of only one or two amino acids.

Thus, by exposing each receptor to a small concentration of odorants, including vanillin or guaiacol, the group identified 27 receptors that had a significant response to at least one odorant.

"These manufacturers all want to know a rational way to produce new chemicals of interest, whether it's a new perfume or new-flavored ingredient, and right now there's no scientific basis for doing that," he said. "To do that, we need to know which receptors are being activated by certain chemicals and the consequences of those activations in terms of how we feel and smell."

More information regarding the study can be found here. 

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