Human Skin Can Smell Things

English: A complete diagram of the human skin.

English: A complete diagram of the human skin. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

An article just published within the pages of the latest issue of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology reveals that human skin has the ability to smell itself as well as other odours. This new study furthermore found out that skin heals better from injury in a pleasant-smelling environment.  This truly fascinating study gives weight to prior research which maintained that human olfactory receptors, which in fact are specialized proteins for the detection of scents, are not found only in the nasal passages.

Technical University of Munich chemist, Peter Schieberle  remarked that, in fact humans employ nasal olfactory receptors for scent detection on a relatively small scale, because it is now believed that various odours could have differing functions for various body areas.

The study group indeed found that these olfactory receptors are present in human blood, and in the lungs and the heart, while Weizmann Institute of Science study leader Ester Feldmesser believes that such receptors are widespread throughout the human body, this latest research showing definitively that such cells exist within the outermost layer of human skin, called the epidermis.

The research team involved identified five different types of olfactory receptors in the predominant human skin cells – known as keratinocytes – and furthermore succeeded in cloning a cell dubbed OR2AT4. These cloned receptors were then exposed to a synthetic Sandalwood scent – Sandalore – which appeared to cause the cells affected to generate the calcium-signalling cascade – characteristic of wound healing – which substantially increses new cell production and migration.

This led the research team to conclude that damaged skin, id subjected to a pleasant smelling environment, is likely to heal more quickly, because somehow the presence of the scent molecules somehow stimulates interaction between nerve cells and the predominant skin cells. It seems that the Sandalwood smell id particularly effective, as yet another study just published – in the Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics – reveals that East Indian sandalwood oil causes pre-cancerous cells in skin to die.

One scientist commented that Sandalwood oils are renowned for anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, among others, so are widely seen as beneficial to health, and indeed, for at least 4,000 years, this oil has been highly valued as a medicinal agent as well as an attractive perfume. South Dakota State University Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences head, Chandradhar Dwivedi revealed that the oil had proved very good at preventing skin cancer caused by chemicals and by UV radiation.

What the new research amply demonstrates is that our bodies are far more sensitive to smell – all over – than we might ever have realised, and though tests are still ongoing,  it does point the way to possible new skin problem treatments, once the full story is known.


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