Scientists have known that there are odor receptors in more places than just the nose, including the heart, kidneys, and liver. A group of biologists has now discovered that the skin is also covered with olfactory receptors.
The team at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany found that more than 15 of the olfactory receptors in the nose are also in human skin cells, Dr. Hanns Hatt, lead researcher, told The New York Times. When one of those receptors, OR2AT4, is exposed to a synthetic sandalwood odor known as Sandalore, injured tissue seems to heal; tests found that skin abrasions healed 30 percent faster when Sandalore was used. Scientists believe this finding could make it easier to treat aging skin or major trauma.
They still have a lot more studying to do. The human body has 350 different types of olfactory receptors, and only a few receptors have been paired with the chemical compounds they are able to detect. "If you think of olfactory receptors as specialized chemical detectors, instead of as receptors in your nose that detect smell, then it makes a lot of sense for them to be in other places," says Jennifer Pluznick, assistant professor of physiology at Johns Hopkins University.
Read more about the study at The New York Times.