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The Smell of It

How sensitive some people are to stinky smells like body odor in part comes down to their genes, LiveScience reports.

Researchers from China and the US conducted a genome-wide association study of 10 different odors, which the participants, first from a discovery cohort of 1,000 Han Chinese individuals and then 364 individuals from a diverse New York population, rated on their pleasantness and intensity. As they report in PLOS Genetics, the researchers uncovered a variant in an olfactory receptor linked to how intense someone perceived a key component of human underarm odor as well as two variants in another receptor associated with the ability to smell the musk galaxolide at all.

Duke University's Hiroaki Matsunami, who was not involved in the study, tells the New York Times that the findings suggest that the human sense of smell is complex. The Times adds that the researchers say their findings may support a controversial theory that the sense of smell in primates has deteriorated over evolutionary time, but it notes that other researchers like the University of Alaska Fairbanks's Kara Hoover aren't convinced that reduced intensity means the primate sense of smell has degraded.

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