A new study suggests that genetic code can affect the way people smell things (file photo)
- New study suggests that genetic code can affect the way people smell things
- 300 people were asked to rate how strong and pleasant particular smells were
- Strong smells for some people were undetectable to others
- It’s believed the sequencing of genetic code or a ‘mutation’ could be the reason
While one person may love the smell of a perfume, to others it could be as a detestable odor.
And just like the other senses, the strength of the smell sense can vary from person to person.
A new study which has been detailed in the journal PNAS reveals how one person’s ‘smell scape’ can be incredibly different from the next person.
The study examined several types of scents including ‘lily of the valley’ scent. For some, it can be extraordinarily intense, while others can fail to smell anything whatsoever.
The scent contains a chemical called bourgeonal. For some, it can smell like white flowers, but for others, nothing at all.
Another compound 2-ethylfenchol which is present in beets is said to be so strong that some are able to smell dirt, while others are unable to smell a thing.
The scientists who conducted the study attempted to try and understand what caused such differences in the perception of the scents.
They looked at each individual’s DNA and managed to ascertain a single genetic mutation to be responsible for the differences in perception.
The study was conducted at Rockefeller University in New York City where 300 people sat in front of computer screens surrounded by 150 jars of various odors.
The computer told them which jar to sniff each time and the subjects had to rate the intensity of each of them on a scale from 1 (extremely weak) to 7 (extremely strong) and pleasantness from 1 (extremely unpleasant) to 7 (extremely pleasant).
Each participant also had to provided a blood sample.
The DNA code of everyone who took part was then compared. Any notable differences in the genetic codes were examined further.
The study allows scientists to understand a little better what causes the wide variety of scent-detection differences.
Human’s have around 400 olfactory smell receptors at the top of their nasal cavity which activate differently depending the smell.
‘Odors bind and turn on specific detectors, and this pattern of activation tells us if we’re smelling a flower, how strong we find it, whether we like it,’ said Dr. Trimmer, a lead author in the study. ‘Small changes in the gene for the receptor can change its shape and how well the odor fits, thereby altering perception of the odor.’
Although the sense of smell is not quite as important for humans as it is for other animals who use the sense to sniff out their next meal, there is evidence that a reduced sense of smell has psychological consequences and could even indicate the onset of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
It’s believed the sequencing of genetic code or a ‘mutation’ could be the reason (file photo)