Life Science Blog

Odor Research That Makes Scents

October 9, 2008

Certain odors can bring back memories of birthday parties past or help us gauge the freshness of last week’s leftovers. Recent research into smells, however, reveals the other impacts they can have on our everyday lives:

Faux Schnoz
A super-sensitive schnoz could soon serve as a tool for diagnosing disease or sniffing out drugs. Researchers at MIT published a study recently that found a way to mass-produce the receptor that odor molecules bind to in the nose.

The authors speculate that this could lead to technology that offers a dog-free way to detect drugs and even a method to test for diseases that give off distinctive scents, such as diabetes and certain types of cancer.

A Rose by Any Other Smell
A carnation that smells like a petunia may seem far-fetched, but researchers at Hebrew University have figured out a way to transfer the genes that code for scents from one flower to another, and how to amplify their perfumes.

The discovery could affect not only the flower and perfume industries but also the produce found on your grocery store’s shelves. The scents of fruits and vegetables affect which ones consumers buy, and scientists say these developments could be used to tweak their odors.

The Scent of a Man
Studies show that women find the scent of a man who is genetically different from them most attractive, but hormonal changes due to oral contraceptives may lead women to find incompatible men more appealing.

So don’t be snotty about the role that smells play in our lives. Your beak may offer info that only the nose knows.

Related on Scienceline:

Is it true that dogs can smell cancer?

Find out how to get a skunky odor out of the house.

Why mosquitoes don’t care how you smell.

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Discussion

1 Comment

Scott says:

Seems like odors are very important area of research. I would still prefer dogs to dog-free technology though. They have good sniffers and are very cute.

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