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Monday, December 22, 2008

Recent Monell Institute paper : Odor ID in mice not disguised by diet

Scientists from the Monell Center present behavioral and chemical findings to reveal that an individual's underlying 'odor signature' remains detectable even in the face of major dietary changes. The findings indicate that biologically-based odorprints, like fingerprints, could be a reliable way to identify individual humans.
This recent research paper from the Monell Institute at first glance seems to raise more questions than answers for metabolic body odor and halitosis sufferers, under the premise we hope the smells we are known for aren't our 'signature' smells. It wouldn't seem so, since it's very unlikely there's any advantage in having such a signature as fecal body odor :) . The signature seems to be mainly to do with odors associated with the Major Histocompatibility Complex, a cluster of genes important to immune system integrity and identity. Usually the olfactory cues in that case are looking for odor differences.

It is interesting that they mention how strongly diet can influence odortypes. This is generally accepted regarding different cultures and their diets, although presumably no culture accepts fecal body odor. Presumably they mean people can smell of the diet (for instance eating a curry), and also the odors from microbes feeding off the diet and resulting metabolites, but again fecal body odor and trimethylaminuria are unlikely part of the equation. They likely mean at very subtle, or undetectable, or desensitized levels. Metabolic body odor is likely a different ball game altogether. The sad part seems to be that they accept diet can make people smell all of all sorts of smells, but the only test for sufferers on offer is the trimethylamine test. The test used for these mice would seem much more preferable (i.e. a blank slate)

Also of interest is how many chemicals from their environment was in their urine.

Plosone.org Full Paper: Genetically-Based Olfactory Signatures Persist Despite Dietary Variation

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