Sense of smell

Study may transform perfume sector

Published: Tuesday 30 September 2003

There is a popular saying that one should not argue about flavours. Researchers from Israel-based Weizmann Institute of Science have found why this is true.

In our genome, around 1,000 genes code for the odour detecting receptors (responsible for our sense of smell and a great part of flavour perception). Of these, more than half have become totally inactive in all humans -- a fact known for years. During their study, the researchers identified at least 50 of these genes that are switched on in some people and not in others. These genes (termed receptors) determine how our brain registers flavours as well as fragrances. A simple calculation, based on the new findings, shows that nearly every human being would display a different pattern of active/inactive receptors. The researchers have also found evidence to suggest that people from different ethnic groups perceive aroma and flavours differently.

The finding has profound implications for the way the perfume, food and beverage industries handle the discovery of new flavour and fragrance ingredients. Usually one person or a small panel makes decisions taken to represent billions of customers. But since every nose is different, the industry should use a DNA chip instead.

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