You may want to change your underwear and take a shower before reading this: your skin contains odor-detecting sensors that may allow it to smell itself. Even more interesting, these olfactory cells appear to aid in helping repair damaged skin.
Chemist Peter Schieberle of the Technical University of Munich is known for discovering that human hearts, lungs and blood all contain proteins that detect odors. According to a new report in the latest issue of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, Daniela Busse of the Department of Cellphysiology at Germany’s Ruhr-University Bochum expanded this research and found the first evidence that these proteins exist in the human epidermis, the skin’s outer layer.
Busse and her team identified five different types of olfactory receptors in human skin and cloned one of them. They then exposed the cloned cells to a synthetic sandalwood form called Sandalore. Natural sandalwood oil has been used for over 4,000 years as a perfume and skin medication but is extremely rare today, hence the use of Sandalore.
The researchers found that Sandalore activated the cloned cells, causing them to proliferate and migrate in a manner similar to how damaged or wounded skin heals. In the test, cell division increased by 32 percent and cell migration by almost half.
The skin’s ability to “smell” is limited. The concentration of Sandalore used was a thousand times more than what is needed to cause a nose receptor to detect it. The olfactory skin cells differ from person to person, so a cream that might heal one person’s skin could be ineffective or even toxic to another.
This ability of the skin to react to the odor of a wound-healing agent will eventually lead to more effective skin care products. Since other body organs also have olfactory receptors, similar products and drugs may also be developed.
In the meantime, do your skin and everyone else’s skin and noses a favor and get rid of that stinky cologne.