How does your skin smell? Pretty well, as it turns out, thanks to receptors dotted all over you. What's more, they could help you heal.
There are more than 350 types of olfactory receptors in the nose, tuned to different scents. About 150 are also found in internal tissues such as those of the heart, liver and gut, but they are hard to study.
Hanns Hatt's lab at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany focused on skin, which is easier to study, and tested the response to scents of receptors in keratinocytes, the main skin cell type.
They found that Sandalore – a synthetic sandalwood oil used in aromatherapy, perfumes and skin care products – bound to an olfactory receptor in skin called OR2AT4. Rather than sending a message to the brain, as nose receptors do, the receptor triggered cells to divide and migrate, important processes in repairing damaged skin.