So, you’ve been talking with him/her on  the Internet for the last four months: personality? check. sense of humor? check. good looks? check. Ready to meet you perfect half? Well, don’t forget about checking the body odor first!

This is not a joke, as weird as it may sound. It won’t be long before online dating websites will allow members to see if they would find their partner’s smell pleasant or would make them go away fast.  And yes, there is serious scientific background to support this initiative: our sense of smell proves to be highly important when choosing someone and it is all a matter of having strong, healthy children. But let’s not rush things.

Biologist August Hämmerli, who started this initiative through the company Basisnote, claims that no matter how well we get along with someone, an unpleasant body smell would make us go away in the end. So, all you have to do in order to avoid possible unpleasant situations is to take a fast saliva test (which is somewhat similar to a pregnancy test) in order to determine your body odor and then enter it as a code in a database; in a matter of seconds you can find out if the person you were flirting with would be pleasant to you and the other way around, if he or she has entered their own code, of course. The whole thing should last for 20 minutes and it’s far from being complicated.

But what factors are involved when liking someone’s smell? Well, it is not a matter of personal hygiene and expensive cologne, but of choosing a partner who is as different genetically from you as possible so as to have strong, healthy children. And even if having a child is the last thing that crosses your mind when flirting with someone, the whole process takes part unconsciously, as the nose’s sensitive receptors are always active.

Mice and other mammals were known to choose their partners by smelling them but until recently no one thought people do the same thing too.

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During an experiment in the 90’s female students were given T-shirts that had been worn by men and they were asked to say which smell was the most attractive and which one the least. The man whose immune system differed the most was constantly chosen.

The genes of the MHC, the Major Histocompatibility Complex, which are the ones who carry instructions for various compartments of the immune system, are the ones to be analysed. They bind fragments of foreign proteins such as in the case of an infection and pass them to the defence system, which triggers a reaction. The more different MHC molecules one has, the more pathogents he or she can fight against – and so will the offspring.

In humans, there are about 100 variations of each of the 9 basic MHC genes, and they are the ones to give you your personal scent. The more you differ from your partner, the more he or she will like your smell.

Now the researchers are negotiating with several online dating platforms but they are confident that the idea will catch on quickly. But don’t forget to be charming and funny! This is only the last phase and nobody wants to know how a jerk smells like!

source: ETH Zurich.


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