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Are pheromones responsible for human body odour assessment?

Posted on January 23, 2013 by James Kohl.

Can You Smell Yourself? by Sarah C. P. Williams on 22 January 2013, 5:10 PM

Excerpt: “Other molecules the human body produces could also influence individual smells and scent preferences, Zufall says. The individuality of people’s microbiomes—the collection of microbes living in and on us—could also be linked to the body’s odor or preferences, Wedekind says. “We just don’t know the full physiology yet,” he said, “But this is a good start.”

My comment: The full physiology has been detailed. The details are based on common molecular mechanisms and the epigenetic effects of nutrients and pheromones on individual survival and species diversification. Self vs non-self recognition is a function of the metabolism of nutrients to pheromones in species from microbes to man.

Major histocompatibility complex peptide ligands as olfactory cues in human body odour assessment

Excerpt 1: “… activation of particular brain regions by exposure… [reflects] ‘self’ or ‘non-self’ qualities relative to the individual’s MHC genotype.”

Excerpt 2: “…our study suggests that, as in mice and fish, sensory evaluation of MHC diversity through the recognition of structurally diverse MHC ligands may be involved in human MHC-associated behaviour.”

My reflection on their suggestion Gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) emerged as a early regulator of reproduction. For example, the yeast α mating factor has 80% amino acid homology with mammalian GnRH. It also stimulates gonadotropin release from the mammalian pituitary.  The discovery of the fact that one decapeptide molecule, among the GnRHs, was constructed perfectly at the beginning of 400 million years [of vertebrate] evolution and that it is not possible to improve its physiological potency using the any natural amino acid is, in my opinion, important….”  It may also be important to note that mice and sticklebacks are vertebrates.

We can then look at an earlier work  with a 2004 Nobel Laureate as a co-author. We find evidence that Feedback loops link odor and pheromone signaling with reproduction.  The link is GnRH. “Indications that GnRH peptide plays an important role in the control of sexual behaviors suggest that pheromone effects on these behaviors might also involve GnRH neurons.”

The statement above translates to: The epigenetic effects of vertebrate pheromones on GnRH links nutrient-dependent pheromone production and feedback loops to food odors and to pheromones, which control of reproduction in species from microbes to man.  Are pheromones anything less than the most powerful influence on the adaptive evolution of human behavior?

In Milinski et al (2013), human pheromones are body odors. The body odors of all other animals are pheromones.  Does the refusal to acknowledge the role of human pheromones in adaptively evolved human behavior exemplify academic nonsense, or ignorance of the full physiology that links nutrient – dependent pheromone-controlled reproduction to behavior in species from microbes to man?

Also see: Researchers crack olfactory code for partner selection, synthesise first biologically effective perfume

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James Kohl
Retired medical laboratory scientist

James Kohl




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What is the vomeronasal organ (VNO)?

The vomeronasal organ (VNO) is a cone-shaped organ in the nasal cavity, which is believed to be one of the body's receptors of pheromones. More, specifically, the VNO, which is part of the accessory olfactory system in the nose, does not respond to normal scents, but may detect odorless, barely perceptible pheromones.

Other schools of thought believe that it is not the VNO but rather cells in our main olfactory system and their affects on hormones secreted by the hypothalamus that are responsible for the affects of pheromones.

Learn more about the science behind pheromones here.

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