The Scent of A Relationship Part 2: The Link Between Our Scent and Our Gene

By Martin Brown

pic1Two months ago SMW reported on the emerging science that reveals how our attraction to a potential mate and his or her scent are very much related to each other. Now further studies of twins reveal more strongly than ever the amazing link between body odor and our personal genetic code.

I have to admit that a few years ago identifying an individual’s genetic code through their unique body scent seemed like an improbable connection. But as science has unraveled the human genome in recent years the evidence is mounting that attraction and scent are tied to one another for some very sound and obvious reasons,.

In our first story about “The Scent of a Relationship, Part 1” we reported on a survey in which a total of 49 single women sniffed the T-shirts of men, all of whom they had never met, and reported which shirts they found to have the most pleasant order. In numbers that defied any possibility of mere chance, the women picked the shirts of men who were immunologically dissimilar. In other words, our instincts send us in search of mates who have immune systems quite different from that of our own. This would seem logical since in protecting the next generation it would be biologically desirable that we mate with partners who have different immune patterns from those of our own. In so doing we increase our chances of creating offspring that are better able to fight disease.

But, do we really have biological markers that connect our unique genetic code to our scent?

It seems so: A recent study out of Switzerland compared the body scent of 12 pairs of identical twins and found that they are substantially more similar than the scents of other people.

A report in the August 2008 edition of Science Now explained that gave each pair of twins placed cotton pads under their armpits as they exercised. Later the researchers used a combination of gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to isolate the various chemicals that the sweat samples produced. This testing produces identifiable patterns of a substance known as “carboxylic acids.” That pattern in each scents released by each set of twins was ten times more similar then in other unrelated individuals.

The science of scent identification has implications that go beyond the ability of a man or woman to attract a biologically suitable mate. In the not too distant future scent may become a key indicator of disease and tests that read body scents might well prevent invasive and expensive tests from being necessary.

Remember in Star Trek, when “Bones,” aka Dr. McCoy, ran a meter over a patient to detect health problems? Perhaps in the near future there will be just such a devise; but what it is reading is an individual’s various scent levels and how they differ from an established norm.

It’s one peak into medicine in the mid-21st Century. Not to mention what the science of scent detection will have done by then to revolutionize the world of dating profiles. It’s enough to make you want to step outside take a deep breath and see if love, not to mention good health, is truly in the air!


Other SMW Health and Safety Articles

Is Your Mouth Kissable? Four More Reasons to Smile

Cancer: When It’s Skin Deep, and Deadly

The Heat Is On! SMW’s Tips for Keeping Cool—and Healthy 

Behind the Wheel: 7 Safety Tips that Might Save Your Life