TIME Research

What You Can Tell About Someone From Their…Earwax

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Two urine diseases can be diagnosed from the substance

New research shows that earwax varies among people of different ethnicities, suggesting that the substance holds untold secrets.

A team of scientists from Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia gathered earwax from 16 men–half were white and half were East Asian–and examined the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) they released when heated. The amount of VOCs per person varied by ethnicity, and white men had more overall.

This small finding is important to researchers who believe earwax may carry attributes specific to each individual. Wet or dry earwax is linked to a gene that is also linked to the production of underarm odor, which can convey information about one’s gender, sexual orientation, and health. Already two urine diseases can be diagnosed in earwax before blood or urine testing.

“Odors in earwax may be able to tell us what a person has eaten and where they have been,” George Preti, an organic chemist at Monell told Medical News Today.

[Medical News Today]

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