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The body odor genome project

Characterize health and disease using body odors.
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Each individual has a very specific odor. This is often downplayed or even considered disgusting, but humans, like other animals, interact via subliminal olfactory communications. Pheromonal communication is responsible for the phenomenon of menstrual synchrony in cohabitating women and may be responsible for mother/baby interactions and others. Odorous molecules may also provide cues to disease states: linked are accounts of the melanoma sniffing dogs (who could identify malignant moles by odor) as well as the "smell of schizophrenia" - a molecule in the sweat of schizophrenics by which trained rats could reliably distinguish them from other patients.

Odor is much overlooked. There is no real database for the range of odorous molecules the human body can secrete. I propose a project, analogous to the Genome Project, in which a large, representative sample of the population would donate samples of their various body odors that they might be analyzed and characterized - most likely with a combination of chromatography and mass spectroscopy. As part of this project, series of ill patients (with, for example, early diabetes) would be considered as a group to see if there were specific odors which set them apart from other people.

The end result: a new, fast screening tool for diseases. Also, elucidation of this aspect of human biology might open new fields of research: for example - do stress, dementia, pregnancy or other biologic states have their own odors? Does body odor change over time - if so, why? The applications and avenues for investigation would be endless.

bungston, Jun 03 2003

Smell of Schizophrenia http://www.jstor.or...33c0050d0d461&dpi=3
You may have trouble with this link. The chemical is trans-3-methyl-2-hexenoic acid. [bungston, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Melanoma Sniffing Dog http://siriusdog.com/melanoma.htm
Originally published in Lancet [bungston, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Menstrual Synchrony http://www.mum.org/mensy71a.htm
The original article! Fascinating stuff. [bungston, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

Sniffer dogs http://abcnews.go.c...ews/dogs020611.html
[squeak, Oct 04 2004, last modified Oct 06 2004]

[link]






       Jutta, what happened to your cool Stasi idea? I like the Flavornet, and especially the term "ethereal" to describe smells. When I think of an "ethereal beauty" I usually do not imagine her reeking of ether! I was sad to see that cherries are not on the list. I cannot taste or smell cherries, figs or artichokes and have always wondered if it is the same chemical / receptor for all three.
bungston, Jun 03 2003
  

       Define: cherries
thumbwax, Jun 04 2003
  

       OED: _cherry_ - A well-known stone-fruit; the pulpy drupe of certain species (or a sub-genus) of Prunus (family Rosaceæ). When used without qualification it usually means the fruit of the cultivated tree (Prunus Cerasus or Cerasus vulgaris); of this, two forms are now also found wild in Britain; the more distinct of these, the common Wild Cherry or Gean, is sometimes considered a separate species (P. Avium).
bungston, Jun 04 2003
  

       I've always wondered if dogs could be trained to detect specific diseases by smell.
Whodathunkit.
  

       There's already been quite a bit of research (and much ongoing) into sequence variation of the genes which make up the human 'major histocompatibility complex'. Many of these genes are found in big clusters, such as one on chromosome 6 called the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) region, which encodes proteins that are densely expressed on the surfaces of some blood cells and other cells, and which are demonstrably recognized by smell in human mate choice. These genes show -very- high levels of variation among humans, some of which actually dates back to a population of ancestors common to humans, chimpanzees and gorillas, i.e. a given human 'allele' (variant) may be more similar to a particular gorilla allele than to another particular human allele, and vice-versa for the gorilla allele relative to a human vs. other gorilla allele! Cool, huh?!
n-pearson, Jun 05 2003
  

       I've heard of dogs being trained to distinguish different disease smells. Somewhere I read that dogs have been trained to alert diabetics when they need to take insulin or eat something depending on their type of diabetes. [link]
squeak, Jun 05 2003
  

       That link describes dogs being trained to detect prostate cancer. It does not point out that this would also take advantage of the innate dog tendency to sniff this region.
bungston, Jun 05 2003
  

       I wasn't aware rats could be trained to detect schizophrenia by smell. Fascinating.   

       Obviously an artificial nose would be best for this project.
RoboBust, Jun 05 2003
  

       Not totally original, but a very good application of older discoveries. Problem is, who's going to pay for this massive project, and what's in it for them?   

       An "odor amplifier" of some sort could eleminate rare and temperamental dogs, and smell machines. The doc could take a swab, put it in the amplifier chamber, and take a sniff.   

       Why Mrs Jones! You smell PREGNANT!
bobad, Jun 03 2004
  

       Wouldn't we have a better chance of diagnosing a wider range of diseases by cataloguing the full range of small molecules dissolved in blood? (or, less invasive but potentially less sensitive, in urine or saliva?) Anything diffusing out into the atmosphere must be less concentrated than it was in the body fluids, especially if it's not very volatile. In any case, I applaud the idea of taking some "small molecule profile" and correlating it with disease.
Basepair, Feb 27 2005
  
      
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