What could cause humans to have a unique sense of smell?

This 2015 Israeli human study found:

“Each person expresses a nearly unique set of different olfactory receptor genes, and therefore may have unique olfactory perception.”

From news coverage of the study, the researchers thought that their findings may be of use for:

“Smell-based social networks

A diagnostic tool for diseases that affect the sense of smell, such as Parkinson’s

A security biometric.”

The researchers attempted to link the subjects’ olfactory components to components of their immune systems. Since studies such as:

provided details on how our immune systems become unique, it would follow that this study’s subjects’ immune systems may have been the underlying cause for the findings.

However, in the study’s limitations paragraph, the researchers stated that this study didn’t demonstrate such causes:

“We did not directly measure genetic makeup.

Given that HLA [human leukocyte antigen genes that regulate our immune systems] captures self and olfactory fingerprints capture self, then there will be a link between HLA and olfactory fingerprints even if they are not the result of linked genes.”

Perhaps the causes for our “unique olfactory perception” will be researched in future studies.

http://www.pnas.org/content/112/28/8750.full “Individual olfactory perception reveals meaningful nonolfactory genetic information”

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