Your Hair Can Smell Things, And Odors Can Grow Hair

Looks like we got another one for the "mind blown by science" drawer!

A recent study has revealed that human hair has the ability to "smell" and detect different odors.  Scientists have discovered that the hair on our very own head contains olfactory receptors similar to those that can be found in our nose.

Ding DONG our hair can smell stuff!  C'mon, that's AMAZING!

Stupid amazing, even.  But let's get to brass tacks:  What good is smelling something just for the smell of it?  Fortunately for you, there's a method to this olfactory madness.

The study reinforces the already documented fact that certain scents are beneficial to hair health and healing.  But perhaps MOST interesting here is the latest innovation: that these olfactory receptors in our hair might hold the secret to hair regrowth.

Specifically we're looking at the olfactory receptor identified as "OR2AT4."  Scientists found that when this receptor was exposed to a synthetic sandalwood odorant, human hair growth is prolonged.  

Confused?  Here, this diagram explaining the process should help.

Uh, or....just confuse you more.  Maybe we can just skim the first paragraph of the study:

...specific stimulation of OR2AT4 by a synthetic sandalwood odorant (Sandalore®) prolongs human hair growth ex vivo by decreasing apoptosis and increasing production of the anagen-prolonging growth factor IGF-1. 

In contrast, co-administration of the specific OR2AT4 antagonist Phenirat® and silencing of OR2AT4 inhibit hair growth. Together, our study identifies that human hair follicles can engage in olfactory receptor-dependent chemosensation and require OR2AT4-mediated signaling to sustain their growth, suggesting that olfactory receptors may serve as a target in hair loss therapy.

-Abstract from "Olfactory receptor OR2AT4 regulates human hair growth"

So when this smell receptor is exposed to a "good" synthetic scent of sandalwood, human hair growth is prolonged.  When it's exposed to a "bad" scent, hair growth is prevented.

OR2AT4 is no isolated smell detector on our bodies - it can be found in hair follicles everywhere from head to toe - but it's most useful/prominent location for us has got to be inside our nose.  When it detects a scent, it sends a message to our brain communicating how we should interpret the smell.  How else could we smell all of life's glories (for better or worse) without it?  

But just because hair follicles and OR2AT4 can be found OUTSIDE the nose, doesn't mean that they aren't doing their job of smelling, and sending messages to our brain!

Read more about the groundbreaking study over at Live Science!

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