Study: Your Skin 'Smells' Odors

And at least one such odor appears to help it heal
By Elizabeth Armstrong Moore,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 8, 2014 6:55 AM CDT
Study: Your Skin 'Smells' Odors
In this May 14, 2014 photo, Pacific Crest Trail self-supported speed record setter Heather Anderson of Bellingham enjoys the scent of blooming serviceberry while hiking near Sandpoint, Idaho.   (AP Photo/The Spokesman-Review, Rich Landers)

It's already known that the nose is not the only part of the human body with olfactory receptors; scientists have found them in the heart, blood, and lungs, and some have suggested they could exist throughout our bodies, reports Discovery News. Now a team of scientists in Germany has confirmed that five types of olfactory receptors—proteins involved in the detection of odors—exist in keratinocytes, the major kind of cell in the skin's outer layer, or epidermis. (By comparison, the nose has 350 types of these receptors.)

After cloning one of the receptors, called OR2AT4, the team exposed it to a synthetic sandalwood odor; sandalwood oil has long been used in Eastern Asia in the hopes of helping skin heal. Per their study in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, doing so triggered a higher concentration of calcium in the cells, which led to a higher number and movement of cells, which happens when wounds heal. They also scratched skin tissue samples and confirmed this healing effect, reports The Conversation. But they caution that sandalwood should be used with care, as more research is needed to determine if it also triggers negative events. (The human nose can detect an astounding number of odors.)

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