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Thread: The Scent of a Man: Women Use Odor to Determine Genetic Compatibility

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    The Scent of a Man: Women Use Odor to Determine Genetic Compatibility

    The Scent of a Man
    Women Use Odor to Determine Genetic Compatibility


    By Jeff Carpenter


    http://abcnews.go.com/sections/livin...ell020122.html

    If you have ever been attracted by a person's scent, it may be their genes you smell. Researchers believe that women can identify men based on differences as small as a single gene

    In the most recent issue of Nature Genetics scientists look at the link between women's preference for the odors men give off and a group of genes called the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC) — which are an important part of the body's immune response.
    A group of 49 women were asked to smell 10 boxes which contained pieces of T-shirts that had either been worn by men or contained a familiar household odor such as bleach or clove.

    The men who had worn the T-shirts were selected based on their MHC genes, and were told to sleep in the shirt for two consecutive nights while avoiding other scents entirely, such as colognes and even contact with other people.

    The women were then asked to rate each scent based on their familiarity, intensity, pleasantness, and spiciness, as well as choose the one odor which they would choose if they had to smell it all the time.

    "A clear pattern emerged," said Dr. Carole Ober, co-author of the study and a geneticist at the University of Chicago. "The women did not choose scents of men with genes totally similar to their own, or totally dissimilar to their own. They chose men with an intermediate level of difference."

    "The real surprising thing is that there was something special about paternally [from one's father] inherited [genes]," said Wayne Potts, an expert in the area of MHC research at the University of Utah.

    Moreover, the women showed no preference for odors from men with the same gene types as their mothers, but did show a preference for odors from men who shared genes they inherited from their fathers.

    "Given that you often can't tell who you're father is, it would be important to evolve a way that you can," said Martha McClintock, co-author of the study and a professor of psychology at the University of Chicago.

    Improved Immunity

    Experts believe there are two major reasons for preferring a mate with different genes than your own. The first is that parents with more diverse MHC genes will give rise to offspring with better immune systems, and the second is that by avoiding mates who have very similar MHC types, you also avoid inbreeding.

    In fact, previous studies have shown that married people tend to have different types of genes than their spouse.

    At the same time, however, the propensity to choose someone with slightly similar genes can also avoid the problem of outbreeding — the mixing of genes that are too different.

    "The best is in the middle range and no one knew that before," said McClintock. "Everybody always says different is better, well you get different, different, different, and then it becomes a point where it's no longer better."

    Potts cautions that choosing an odor from within a box may not represent what actually happens in the real world when women are attracted to their mates.

    "It's the wrong emphasis to say that this means that they're going to prefer MHC similar males when it comes to mating," said Potts. "There is other social context."

    How Can You Smell Genes?

    "That is one of the molecular missing links," said Potts. "We don't know exactly what the odorants are."

    Potts explains that one hypothesis is linked to the ability of MHC molecules to stick to very specific pieces of protein in cells. These MHC molecules and the proteins stuck to them are what is believed to be detected as an odor.

    "There are thousands of [MHC molecules] on the surface of every cell, [and] you are sloughing millions of cells everyday," said McClintock. "You look sort of like Pigpen with a cloud of cells around you."

    Whatever the mechanism, this study disproves the assumption that humans have a poorly developed sense of smell.

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    Post Re: Women Use Odor to Determine Genetic Compatibility

    "At the same time, however, the propensity to choose someone with slightly similar genes can also avoid the problem of outbreeding — the mixing of genes that are too different."

    Outbreeding? Genes that are too different? This is a very interesting concept and one that can be used as an arguement about misceogenation.

    Can we expand on this "outbreeding"? Any other data regarding this concept?

    I will search also.

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    Post Re: Women Use Odor to Determine Genetic Compatibility

    Quote Originally Posted by RusViking
    "At the same time, however, the propensity to choose someone with slightly similar genes can also avoid the problem of outbreeding — the mixing of genes that are too different."

    Outbreeding? Genes that are too different? This is a very interesting concept and one that can be used as an arguement about misceogenation.

    Can we expand on this "outbreeding"? Any other data regarding this concept?

    I will search also.
    Sensitivity to smell must have been a property of dramatic importance to distinguish the mostly endogamic social structure of the archaic sapiens and Neanderthal peoples an unknown form one's kin.
    Hence greater nasal cavities and greater size of olfactory brain centers(see: John Baker, Race).
    If moderns and Neanderthal really interbred, then based on the presumptions of the article here above, they must have seen each one as next to kin.
    An indirect solution to the species question of Neanderthalids and Cromagnoids? It looks so.
    I didn't make earlier the link, but man's axillary odour being musk-like, animals played a role in UP among their "shamans", the Deer Deity or Horned God in many traditional societies intertwined with fertility and fecundation, totemism whereby from a woman or a female entity given birth to the totem animals and mankind and so forth...there is a lot of brainstorming going on now, loose pieces of a jigzaw puzzle, however out there surely is an envelopment, an undercurrent which explains and brings all these portions of data together...

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    Post Re: Women Use Odor to Determine Genetic Compatibility

    So, sniffing girl's bicycle seats has survival value? I am sorry, this is probably great science but I couldn't resist.

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    Post Re: Women Use Odor to Determine Genetic Compatibility

    BTW I heard that the pill can change the preference of a woman. Probably there are proofs for this as well.

    The preference of this sort of odor + certain hormon levels is something well known for some years.

    If its about different races it is something else because of what this is about are certain immune variant which differ in every bigger group.

    It is of course not advantageous at least as long as there is no perfect immunce variant for a population to have just one.
    So if we speak about physical features its something different than on the immune and genetic level.

    Inbreeding is seldom very good at its extreme, but can be quite effective in bigger groups with enough genetical (especially immune variants) variability.
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