Our blood cells have odourant receptors – what could this mean?

Blood cells by Bruce Wetzel and Harry Schaefer via Wikimedia Commons

Blood cells by Bruce Wetzel and Harry Schaefer via Wikimedia Commons

There is still so much we don’t understand about how our sense of smell works and a recent report on the findings of Peter Schieberle, Ph.D., suggests things are even weirder than we thought.

Our team recently discovered that blood cells – not only cells in the nose – have odorant receptors,” said Schieberle. “In the nose, these so-called receptors sense substances called odorants and translate them into an aroma that we interpret as pleasing or not pleasing in the brain. But surprisingly, there is growing evidence that also the heart, the lungs and many other non-olfactory organs have these receptors. And once a food is eaten, its components move from the stomach into the bloodstream. But does this mean that, for instance, the heart ‘smells’ the steak you just ate? We don’t know the answer to that question.”

What does this mean? We don’t know yet. Why would our blood cells need odorant receptors? Does this discovery offer any insight into why our flavour preferences differ?

The implications for flavourists and food technologists could be huge. The way we perceive foods depends on not only flavour and olfactory signals, but on texture, temperature and colour of the foods.

For example, baked beans and beans in foods like chili provide a “full,” rich mouth-feel. Adding the component of beans responsible for this texture to another food could give it the same sensation in the mouth, Schieberle explained. Natural components can also interact with substances in foods to create new sensations.

This research was presented on the 7th of April at the 245th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical society.

Read the Science Daily report here.

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