A  A  A   Print
Sense of Smell Determined by Genes, Study Says

Sense of Smell Determined by Genes, Study Says

FRIDAY, Aug. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Genetic differences appear to explain why some people can smell certain odors and others can't, researchers say.

Using 10 different odors, the researchers tested nearly 200 people for their smell sensitivity and then analyzed the participants' DNA. For four of the odors tested, there was a link between smell sensitivity and certain genetic variants.

The four odors are malt, apple, blue cheese and violets, according to the findings, published online Aug. 1 in the journal Current Biology.

"We were surprised how many odors had genes associated with them. If this extends to other odors, then we might expect everyone to have their own unique set of smells that they are sensitive to," research team co-leader Jeremy McRae, of Plant and Food Research in New Zealand, said in a journal news release.

"These smells are found in foods and drinks that people encounter every day, such as tomatoes and apples. This might mean that when people sit down to eat a meal, they each experience it in their own personalized way," McRae said.

He and his colleagues also found that people's ability to smell these four odors was the same worldwide. That means that someone in Asia is just as likely to be able to smell one of the odors as someone in Africa or Europe.

The ability to smell one of these odors doesn't predict the ability to smell the others, the study also found. So if someone is good at smelling blue cheese, it doesn't mean they'll be good at smelling an apple next to it.

The genetic variants that affect the ability to smell these four odors are in or near genes that encode odorant receptors. The researchers explained that odor receptor molecules sit on the surface of sensory nerve cells in the nose. When certain chemical compounds float in the air, the nerve cells send a signal to the brain and give you the perception of a smell.

Richard Newcomb, co-leader of the project, said that knowing the compounds that people can sense in foods, as well as other products, will influence the development of future products. "Companies may wish to design foods that better target people based on their sensitivity, essentially developing foods and other products personalized for their taste and smell," he said in the news release.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders has more about smell and smell disorders.

SOURCE: Current Biology, news release, Aug. 1, 2013

 
Today's Interactive Tools
Related Items

The third-party content provided in the Health Library of phoebeputney.com is for informational purposes only and is not designed to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease, or replace the professional medical advice you receive from your physician. If you or your child has or suspect you may have a health problem, please consult your primary care physician. If you or your child may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 or other emergency health care provider immediately in the United States or the appropriate health agency of your country. For more information regarding site usage, please visit: Privacy Information, Terms of Use or Disclaimer.

Follow us online:

© 2014 Phoebe Putney Health System  |  417 Third Avenue, Albany, Georgia 31701  |  Telephone 877.312.1167

Phoebe Putney Health System is a network of hospitals, family medicine clinics, rehab facilities, auxiliary services, and medical education training facilities. Founded in 1911,
Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital (the flagship hospital) is one of Georgia's largest comprehensive regional medical centers. From the beginning, Phoebe's mission and vision
has been to bring the finest medical talent and technology to the citizens of Southwest Georgia, and to serve all citizens of the community regardless of ability to pay.