18 May Chemical & Engineering News: Small genetic variations link the activity of odor receptors with the perception of odors
To one person, a beet might smell mildly earthy and pleasant. To another, sharp and intense. The beet is the same, the earthy odorant—2-ethylfenchol—is the same, but the perception of that odor is different. Researchers have long wondered how that can be, and a team of scientists thinks that perception is linked to tiny genetic changes that alter the activity of some of the hundreds of odor receptors in the human nose. The research, led by Casey Trimmer, an odor scientist formerly of Monell Chemical Senses Center, involved asking more than 300 volunteers to smell a panel of 68 substances and rate the smells according to parameters such as pleasantness and intensity.