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Everyone has a different set of genes that affects taste and smell preferences *A team of scientists from the Weizmann Institute of Science, led by Prof. Doron Lantz from the Department of Molecular Genetics, recently found the molecular-genetic basis for this age-old insight

"There is no arguing about taste and smell" says a well-known proverb. A team of scientists from the Weizmann Institute of Science, led by Prof. Doron Lantz from the Department of Molecular Genetics, recently found the molecular-genetic basis for this age-old insight.

A thousand genes in our genome encode olfactory receptors responsible for detecting different smells. It has been known for many years that more than half of them became during evolution "dead genes" that completely lost their activity in all human beings. That is why the surprise was so great, when Prof. Lantz and his research team recently discovered that in addition to this there are about 50 other genes that are active in some people, and completely inactive in others. This is a relatively rare phenomenon, of such significant genomic differences between different people.

A simple calculation shows that almost every person is characterized by a unique pattern of distribution of these 50 genes between the states of "active" and "off". This is how, in fact, a kind of personal genetic barcode is created, expressed in a unique combination of these genes. Since the identification of different smells is carried out using a kind of "pattern" that combines many receptors, it is clear that the genetic diversity discovered affects the way each person perceives and deciphers many of the thousands of tastes and smells that exist in the world. In addition to this, the new study shows that the degree and rate of "switching off" of most of the genes encoding the smell receptors, are different in different ethnic groups.

The new discovery could have a major impact on the way the perfume, food and beverage industries design new scented products. Usually, the decisions in this area are made by one person or a small team of experts, who are supposed to represent billions of customers. But if every nose is different, and if the ethnic background also changes the picture, then it seems that the industry will have to rethink these issues. The scientists believe that it will soon be necessary to use DNA chips to carry out individual characterization of genes encoding the smell receptors, both among test teams and among broad populations. In other words, it seems that far-reaching changes are expected in the near future in the development of cosmetics and food products, similar to what is happening in the pharmaceutical industry, which will soon move to the development and production of personalized medicines that will be based on matching the medicines to the individual genetic characteristics of each patient.

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