Eliminating body odor is a major priority for deer hunters. Hundreds of products out there are designed to deodorize your camo and remove smelly traces from your gear. Scent-free science has helped hunters for years, and now it turns out we’re not the only ones benefiting from the technology. Researchers revealed yesterday at an American Chemical Society meeting that research for scent-eliminating technology could be used to help develop a life-saving device for diabetes patients.
Here’s how it works. Bacteria living in and on the human body naturally emit a complex mixture of hundreds of compounds. Many of these compounds contribute to the smell known as human body odor. Researchers are currently trying to collect and understand these substances, called volatile organic compounds, both for better hunting and better health.
When a diabetes patient experiences drastic changes in blood sugar, different types of VOCs show up in their breath. Specially-trained service dogs can sniff out these tell-tale VOCs to help prevent diabetes symptoms, including seizures. Sounds great right? But these dogs are expensive, require lots of care, and can’t work round the clock. That’s why researchers are trying to use scent-reducing research to develop a portable electronic device to do the same job.
Mississippi State University wildlife ecologist Bronson Strickland was already studying hunting-related scent technology when he teamed up with MSU grad student and study author Shamitha Dissanayake. The team asked 65 participants to wear a regular T-shirt or a T-shirt treated with one of four commercial scent-eliminating sprays used by hunters. Four hours later the researchers collected body odor samples and crunched the data.
Participants produced unique body odors depending on what they ate or drank and how much they exercised or rested, and researchers collected hundreds of VOCs altogether. They ultimately discovered the hunting sprays worked by significantly reducing the levels of 29 key compounds.
This is where those with deer and diabetes interests diverge. Strickland hopes to determine which of the 29 smelly substances spook deer most. Dissanayake wants to understand more about disease-monitoring and which VOCs help tip off alert dogs. For now the study has brought health and wildlife closer to answering their questions about the science behind scent.