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We Live in Our Own Unique Olfactory World
No Two People Smell Alike
Charles J. Wysocki, Ph.D., an NIDCD-supported researcher at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, is investigating genetic differences in smell perception. It is known that people perceive scents differently.
Andreas Keller, a geneticist at the Rockefeller University says, "Everybody's olfactory world is unique, private world. Our uniqueness includes we all have an olfactory "blind spot."
What is a "Pseudogene?"
As we adapt to our changing environment, our sense of smell has become less important. The 400 genes encoding our olfactory (smelling nerve endings) receptors began to accumulate mutations. After a number of mutations, it becomes a pseudogene notes geneticist Doron Lancet of Israel's Weizmann Institute of Science, meaning it no longer encodes a functioning receptor.
Therefore, we each smell differently because we have different combinations of pseudogenes. Doron Lancet says, "You end up with a bar code situation, whereby each individual has a slightly different bar code."
We Have Huge Capacity to Smell
We humans have the capacity to smell up to 10,000 different odors, but for most of us, many of the genes controlling our sense of those smells have shut down business. We do not need the capacity anymore...
An example of our differing capacity to smell is our sensitivity to the smell of sweat. Some individuals have a heightened ability to pick up body odor. The scientists also found that women are more sensitive to many smells than men. Some other interesting facts: two million people in the US have no sense of smell at all and one in a thousand can't smell skunks.
Genetic Smell Variability Seems to Translate into Behavioral Variability
Keller (Rockefeller University) asked 500 people to rate a panel of 68 odors for intensity and pleasantness, they gave the full range of responses. Some detected a "weak" odor, others detected the same odor as "intense."
Your "Smell" is Your "Fingerprint"
Enjoy your unique "smell fingerprint" and be aware others may smell sewage when you smell roses!