Space & Innovation

How Geneticists Are Recreating Extinct Smells

What did ancient plants smell like? Scientists are working on a way to find out using genetically modified yeast.

Like so many other plants and animals, countless species of aromatic flowers have gone extinct over the millennia. That means it's entirely possible that certain aromas have also gone extinct. If you've ever wondered what an orchid from the Pliocene era smells like, well, you're out of luck.

But, wait – maybe not. Scientists are tweaking existing fragrance extraction technologies to pull new odor compounds out of DNA information. By altering certain yeast compounds to match extinct DNA sequences, it appears that we actually can resurrect the scents of flowers that have long ago departed from the Earth. Naturally, perfume makers are already exploring the commercial opportunities of this approach. Obsession 3,000 B.C.? Why not? Jules Suzdaltsev has the story in today's DNews report.

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Read More:

Seeker: Fungus Used to Brew Up New Fragrances

BrainFacts: Making Sense of Scents: Smell and the Brain

MIT Technology Review: Would You Feel Sexy Wearing Eau de Extinction?