as outlined in a New York Times article, investigators at Ruhr University Bochum in Germany found that our skin has olfactory receptors, which are the same odor receptors found in the nose.
in fact, exposing skin cells to an synthetic sandalwood odor appeared to induce healing in injured tissue (source article). in a separate study, synthetic lily of the valley fragrance promoted muscle tissue regeneration (source article).
why would humans develop body parts that can detect odors? from the New York Times article:
“If you think of olfactory receptors as specialized chemical detectors, instead of as receptors in your nose that detect smell, then it makes a lot of sense for them to be in other places,” said Jennifer Pluznick, an assistant professor of physiology at Johns Hopkins University
what does that mean for us, practically speaking? as clinical providers, we can imagine sending patients home with a regimen of fragrances to promote healing.
dr. rhee would like to give a shout out to his colleague, Dr. Lars Steinsträßer, a plastic surgeon who is part of the German research group. Dr. Lars Steinsträßer and dr. rhee trained together at University of Michigan Medical Center during plastic surgery residency. Nice work Lars!