Heart researcher: Why our hearts can smell too

Researchers decode the function of fragrances in the heart
Fragrance receptors are used to perceive smells and are therefore mainly in the nose. However, there are also fragrance receptors in the human heart. Researchers at the Ruhr University Bochum (RUB), the Ludwig Maximillians University (LMU) in Munich and the Universities of Cologne and Tübingen have now found out what the function of the fragrance receptors in our hearts is. The results could be useful in the long term, especially for diabetics or patients with increased heart rates, the scientists report.

The RUB researchers explain that there are olfactory receptors in the human heart that also occur in the nose. For one of these receptors, the scientists have now been able to decipher which function it takes on in the heart. The research team led by Dr. Nikolina Jovancevic and Professor Dr. Dr. habil. Hanns Hatt from the Ruhr University Bochum published in the specialist magazine "Basic Research in Cardiology".

Fragrance receptor reacts to rancid-greasy smell
In their investigations, the scientists found that the fragrance receptor in the human heart reacts to fatty acids that give a rancid-fatty odor impression. For example, these fatty acids are present in the blood of diabetics. "If the fragrance receptor is activated by the fatty acid, the heart rate and strength decrease," reports the RUB. For their experiments, the Bochum scientists, together with Prof. Jürgen Hescheler from the University of Cologne, constructed mini hearts out of embryonic stem cells and human skin cells.

The heart rate changes when in contact with fatty acids
If the receptor called OR51E1 was activated in the heart with a certain fatty acid, the beating frequency of the mini hearts bred decreased. If the fragrance was removed again, the frequency of the mini-hearts normalized, the doctors explain further. According to Professor Hatt, this function of the fragrance receptor "could have a negative effect on the cardiac function of diabetics."

Therapeutic benefits of the fragrance receptor
The scientists have now also developed a blocker for the receptor, which cancels the negative effect of the activating scents. This could have promising therapeutic benefits. With its help, the negative effects on the heart rate could possibly be avoided. On the other hand, the activating scent could also be used to normalize the heartbeat in patients with greatly increased heart rates. The researchers hope that the fragrance could be administered externally in the form of an ointment. “If you rub the area over the heart, enough fragrances could get through the skin to have an effect on the heart; there are first indications of this, ”says Prof. Hatt. (fp)

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