Olfaction (Scent) is a brave new frontier in healthcare and is now entering the field of Biomarkers. We are all learning rapidly the depth of impact that scent can have. Studies and technologies are being used to do early detection of diseases from Cancer to Alzheimer’s. Studies abound on dealing with psychological trauma from PTSD to anxiety using scent. Work has shown that even the trip to the dentist or a hospital stay can be made almost pleasant using scent.
In previous scent narratives, we have discussed the work of Dr. Hanns Hatt who has found scent receptors in various places on the human body beyond the nose. Dr. Hatt is, in fact, working on certain scents as a cure to be found later in this Narrative. This leads down a path where perhaps “Biomarkers” can be Scent based.
The term “biomarker”, refers to a very broad subcategory of medical signs observed from outside the patient which can be measured accurately and reproducibly. In 1998, the National Institutes of Health Biomarkers Definitions Working Group defined a biomarker as “a characteristic that is objectively measured and evaluated as an indicator of normal biological processes, pathogenic processes, or pharmacologic responses to a therapeutic intervention.” In other words, a characteristic beyond a traditional symptom, such as “What does someone smell like?”
SCENT IS EFFECTIVE IN BOTH IN EARLY DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
In the previous discussions, we wrote about how Alzheimer’ s scent recognition tests can provide early detection (up to 10 years) for better coping habits to be developed. Additionally, we have reviewed the breakthrough work using scent on cognitive disorders, especially PTSD. In this Narrative, we will also look at scent as a treatment for Colon Rectal Cancer, through the breakthroughs of Dr. Hanns Hatt.
Breakthroughs continue in the field as the actual smell of a person may lead to early diagnosis of life-threatening ailments. Every individual has a unique set of molecules that are like a fingerprint. As babies know the smell of their mothers, there’s proof that our scent can reflect everything from our DNA to metabolic processes that are the key to our health.
A PERSON’S “DISEASED SMELL” HAS ANCIENT ROOTS
In Ancient Times, fragrance had divine value and power; the Egyptians were the first major civilization to use perfumes as part of their daily routines. From the Egyptians, perfume next arrived in Greece. There, Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, used aromatic fumigations to rid Athens of The Plague from 430-427 BC. Hippocrates, in his treatment of the sick, used plant based oils to treat the ill. He also recommended sniffing patients’ body odor as an effective means of identifying their ailments.
THE SMELL REPORT DEBUNKES ANCIENT SUPERSTITIONS
Dr. Kate Fox, in her seminal work, “The Smell Report” noted this historical footnote:
“The perceptive and correct observation that body odors can indicate illness may unfortunately have led to the development of the erroneous belief that these odors were the cause of disease – resulting in a misguided attempt to protect against plague and typhus by carrying scented pouches and torches. Belief in the therapeutic value of perfumes was firmly established much earlier. 17th and 18th century doctors promoting the use of perfumes to combat infection frequently referred to the therapeutic use of fragrances by eminent physicians of the Ancient world such as Hippocrates (who burned scented stakes to combat the plague of Athens), Galen and Crito (whose healing methods were based almost entirely on the use of aromatics).”
However, by the early 19th century, skeptical scientists discredited the use of aromatics for medicinal purposes for pharmaceuticals & chemical medicaments. Yet today we have proven that Scent may be part of a cure for our most modern plague: Cancer.
COLORECTAL CANCER HAS SCENT CURE
One of the leading causes of cancer death in more developed countries is colorectal cancer. Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most frequent causes of cancer-related mortality in the world. Primary surgery can achieve a cure rate of 50%. In the United States alone, 93,000 new cases of colon cancer occur annually  A research team headed by Dr. Hanns Hatt and Dr. Lea Weber from Ruhr-Universität Bochum has found that the growth of colorectal cancer cells can be inhibited with troenan. Troenan is a fresh, oily green scent with jasmine, spicy and privet blossom tones. It smells of privet, a flowering shrub that is often cultivated in hedges.
For the study, the team from the Department of Cell Physiology in Bochum collaborated with the Department of Molecular GI-Oncology at Ruhr-Universität, headed by Dr. Stephan Hahn. The necessary gene sequencing was carried out by the team from the Cologne Center for Genomics.
FLORAL SCENTS ACTIVATE HEALTHY CELLS IN THE RECTUM
As we have mentioned in previous Scent Narratives, Olfactory Receptors (OR’s) had been demonstrated in various healthy as well as cancerous tissues. Next, the researchers treated cancerous cells and tumor tissue samples with troenan and found that the cancerous cell proliferation was slowed down. It acted as an inhibitor of tumor growth and metastasis. In follow-up experiments with mice, which grew the human tumor, the scent effect was confirmed in retarding CRC.
HEALTHY SCENT THERAPY A REALITY
The decisive factor is the stage of the disease in which CRC is detected, with the diagnosis being as important as the cure. After surgical removal of such tumors, patients only have a chance of recovery of 50%. No specific pharmacological treatment is available; only general chemotherapy. This discovery means new treatment options with better outcomes.
“We assume that our results might pave the way for a new approach for colorectal cancer therapy,” says Hanns Hatt, “The tumors can often be accessed from the inner cavity of the intestine. It is therefore conceivable that oral or rectal administration might transport the scent troenan in effective concentrations directly to the tumour.” [i]
Medical Science is offering us a new opportunity with Scent as a cure. Dr. Hatt and his team have created a new world of scent based health and cures. Breakthroughs in scent treatment may hold a cure to our modern-day plague of cancer. It is time to look at Scent as the ultimate Biomarker.
[i] Hanns Hatt. Activation of odorant receptor in colorectal cancer cells leads to inhibition of cell proliferation and apoptosis. PLOS ONE, 2017; 12 (3): e0172491 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0172491