The Loh Down On Science

Gym Socks

Genetic testing using sweaty socks.

Medical diagnostics--from gym socks?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Chemists at Givaudan, a Swiss fragrance company, have been studying the genetics of body odor. They say that how MUCH we smell depends on our bathing habits--no kidding--but precisely what we smell LIKE depends on genes.

Sweat itself is odorless. Body odor happens when chemicals in sweat react to bacteria living on skin.

Sweat's most common chemicals are twenty-four carboxylic acids, which show up in different proportions in each person.

The chemists were hoping to locate the gene that apparently determines the proportion of carboxylic acid. Then sweat samples could become a non-invasive test for diseases linked to that gene.

To determine if those proportions are inherited, the chemists had twelve sets of identical twins exercise, then collected their sweat.

The samples were analyzed using gas chromatography, which separates chemicals from each other, and mass spectrometry, which determines their identity and concentration.

Results? The proportions of carboxylic acid in twin B.O. were ten times more similar than those of unrelated sweat.

In short, they. . . wait for it--

They smelled like twin spirit!


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