Dig Deep And You Can Uncover The Secrets Of EarWax
Christopher Philip

According to a new study to be published in the Journal of Chromatography, earwax contains a treasure-trove of information. Researchers at Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, PA admit that earwax is “a neglected body secretion.” No doubt! To most people, though, it’s totally disgusting!

Earwax is the product of sweat glands and fatty byproducts from sebaceous glands (oil glands). It usually produces a yellow-brown wax or a dry white-wax. Ear wax performs a vital function by spiraling out of the ear canal moving dust, bacteria and other minute objects from permanently invading the ear space.

Scientists have discovered a genetic link between underarm odor and earwax. Interestingly a variation of the single gene known as ABCC11 determine whether a person has wet or dry earwax. This gene also has a function in underarm odor production. Along with the wet-waxy ear condition, come more odorous underarms. The effects of underarm odor has been heavily researched and shown to reveal much vital information about a person. Curiously, persons of European and African decent have moist earwax whereas those of Asian decent have the dry variety. Previous research has shown that underarm odor can tell of a “person’s gender, sexual orientation, and even heath status,” says study lead author George Preti, PhD, an organic chemist at Monell. “We think it possible that earwax may contain similar information,” he said.

In the study, the researches collected earwax samples from 16 men, 8 were from Caucasian men and 8 were from East Asian men. The samples were then melted under heat for 30 minutes to help them release airborne molecules, their (VOC), “volatile organic compounds.” The odorous VOC’s were collected and passed through “gas chromatography-mass spectrometry” which is a process that collects and analyzes the chemical make-up of the samples.

They found that white men had greater amounts of the 11 VOC’s they were measuring than the men of East Asian decent likely due to their sticky wet-wax. The researchers figure that “Odors in earwax may be able to tell us what a person has eaten and where they have been,” says Preti. Two odor-producing diseases, “maple syrup urine disease” and “alkaptonuria,” can be identified in earwax earlier than by using urine or blood analysis. The ABCC11 gene has also been linked to breast cancer. Future research will focus on using earwax as a detective method in disease prediction and prevention.

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