Hello stinky, scientists found out why you smell so bad – BGR

  • Scientists studying microbes that produce body odor in humans have identified the enzyme responsible for odor molecules.
  • The so-called “BO Enzyme” produces the molecules that we detect as a smelly body odor.
  • In the future, products that target this enzyme may provide advanced prevention of body odor.

You really have to give it to the scientists. Depending on their field of study, they can be credited with incredible discoveries like new planets, new animal and plant species, or even the cure of deadly diseases. Other researchers choose to focus their efforts on less prestigious but still important areas of study, such as discovering why armpits suck.

Scientists immersed themselves in their research first, searching for the specific enzyme that generates what we know as body odor, or “BO”. The work was published in Scientific reports, and it could make you a little less repulsive.

This is not the first BO-related investigation that researchers have ventured into. The York University team previously identified species of microbes that are responsible for producing much of the smell in the human body. Now, they’ve taken things one step further by identifying the specific enzyme that generates the stinky molecules.

The researchers write:

Body odor is a characteristic trait of Homo sapiens, however, its role in human behavior and evolution is poorly understood. Surprisingly, body odor is related to the presence of a few species of commensal microbes. Here we uncovered a bacterial enzyme, limited to odor-forming staphylococci that can cleave odorless precursors of thioalcohols, the hottest components of body odor.

Okay, so that is a somewhat complicated explanation, but the idea is quite simple: The so-called “BO enzyme” is used by certain bacteria that, as a result, create a pungent body odor.

“Solving the structure of this ‘BO enzyme’ has allowed us to determine the molecular pathway within certain bacteria that produce odor molecules,” said Dr. Michelle Rudden, co-author of the study, in a statement. “This is a key advance to understanding how body odor works, and will allow the development of specific inhibitors that stop BO production at the source without disrupting the armpit microbiome.”

It should come as no surprise that the research was conducted in collaboration with Unilever. Unilever, if you don’t know it, is a megabody with a ton of brands. Many of those brands, such as Ax, Dove, Brut and Suave have vested interests in how well their products work to combat body odor. By focusing on the exact enzyme responsible for the human stench, they can fight it more efficiently and, as Dr. Rudden points out, avoid interrupting other microbes in the process.

So the next time you hear about scientists discovering a new galaxy or some never-before-seen species of deep-sea fish, just remember that other researchers are working so hard to make sure it doesn’t suck so much on your next appointment.

Mike Wehner has reported on technology and video games for the past decade, covering the latest news and trends in virtual reality, handheld devices, smartphones, and future technology. Most recently, Mike served as technical editor at The Daily Dot, and has appeared on USA Today, Time.com, and countless other websites and in print. His love of reporting is second only to his addiction to games.