Men's, Women's Hands Give Off Different 'Scent Profiles'

FRIDAY, July 7, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- Dogs can sniff out and track someone based on their scent, a trait that has aided scores of criminal investigations.

Laboratory scientists working with human odors report that a new discovery may also further crime solving: They've determined that the scents of women and men differ, at least in their palms.

The researchers were able to predict someone’s sex with nearly 97% accuracy using scent compounds from their palms, according to a report published July 5 in the journal PLOS ONE.

This could help law enforcement agents track down criminals, according to researchers led by Kenneth Furton, chief scientific officer at Florida International University.

Certain crimes -- including robberies, assaults and rapes -- are often are committed with someone’s hands, the authors said in background notes. This could mean there's valuable trace evidence left at a crime scene.

The finding complements existing human odor research that indicates scent compounds can also reveal a person’s age and racial or ethnic group.

“This approach to analyzing hand odor volatiles can be applied when other discriminatory evidence such as DNA is lacking and allow for differentiation or class characterization such as sex, race and age," Furton and colleagues said in a journal news release.

The research team used an analysis technique called mass spectrometry to analyze the volatile scent compounds on the palms of 60 individuals. Half of those in the study were male and half female.

The team identified the compounds in each sample and then did a statistical analysis to see if they could determine the individual’s sex based on their scent profile. The analysis was correct 96.67% of the time.

The new research needs to be validated further, but the authors said it may have the potential to be used one day to uncover details about a perpetrator through their hand scent profiles.

More information

The University of California San Francisco has more about research on scent.

SOURCE: PLOS ONE, news release, July 5, 2023

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