There's a Rare Gene Mutation That Makes You Immune to This Awful Odor

Since it was found to be one of the most common symptoms of COVID-19, you likely viewed the loss of your sense of smell as just something negative. And while this is largely true, a new scientific study has found a specific case where not being able to smell might actually be positive. According to a study from Iceland published October 8 in the journal Current Biology, a small fraction of people were found to have a genetic mutation that made them immune to the widely unpleasant smell of raw or rotting fish.
For the study, 11,326 Icelandic participants were asked to smell six "sniffin 'sticks" - unlabelled stick-like devices that released a synthetic odor when uncapped - each of which had a specific odor: cinnamon, peppermint, banana, liquorice, and lemon Fish. Participants were then asked to identify the smell and rate its intensity and comfort. Unsurprisingly, the fish odor was both universally recognized and rated the worst for its pleasantness.
However, the most interesting result of the study was that a small proportion of the respondents were found to not only repeatedly tolerate the foul aroma, but in some cases even enjoy the smell. The reason, according to the scientists who conducted the study, is a genetic mutation that made the TAAR5 gene ineffective. And it is this gene that the vast majority of people have in tact that helps a protein be responsible for detecting a chemical called trimethylamine, or TMA, found in rotten and fermented fish and human body fluids like sweat and urine.
After learning about this fascinating and arguably positive mutation, we wondered if there were any others of this type. Read on to discover more genetic mutations that may give you an ability that other people don't. And for a scientific advancement that's more alarming than enticing, read Dr. Fauci says this is why he is worried about the latest COVID mutation.
Improved sense of taste
Woman who tastes food she makes before seasoning
According to the National Institute for Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), about 25 percent of Americans are considered "super tasters" - meaning they can taste food in ways that are far more intense than the rest of us. The ability, scientists believe, is based on a specific variation of TAS2R38, known as the bitter taste receptor gene. For more information about your five senses, see COVID can kill another of your senses in addition to taste and smell.
Super speed or athletic skills
Woman running
All people have a gene called ACTN3, which normally makes a protein that regulates the function of fast-twitch muscles that are related to speed and strength. However, several studies have found that a variant of this gene interferes with the development of the regulatory protein. Without this protein, scientists found, your fast-twitch muscle function remains unregulated, resulting in improved endurance, speed, and strength skills.
Unusually strong bones
X-ray of a knee with a fabella
Typically, mutations in the gene for lipoprotein receptor-related protein 5 or low density LRP5 lead to debilitating osteoporosis. However, a 2002 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that a specific mutation resulted in increased bone density and strength. And a doctor who examined patients with the disease told Big Think, "None of these people, ages 3 to 93, have ever had a broken bone." If you would like to receive more helpful information in your inbox, subscribe to our daily newsletter.
Protection against diabetes
Man gets a diabetes test in the doctor's office
For a 2014 study published in the journal Nature Genetics, researchers at the Broad Institute in Boston wanted to find out why a group of older, overweight people with type 2 diabetes because of their pre-existing health conditions should be doing this but mysteriously not. They found that people with a mutation in a gene with subtle effects on insulin called SLC30A8 - short for Solute Carrier Family 30, Member 8 - are 65 percent less likely to get diabetes, even if they have risk factors like obesity. For more fascinating scientific facts, see This Is What It Means When A Fly Lands On You.

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