Back to Blog topics

AbScent Trustees publish groundbreaking research

Understanding the triggers of parosmia

Parosmia is triggered by specific types of highly-active odour molecules.

Okay, while this isn’t news to anyone who follows info and updates from AbScent, it’s a red letter day for people with parosmia. By publishing results in a peer-reviewed journal, doctors and researchers around the world can accept this as validated scientific evidence, and design their own research - and ultimately treatments - to address the problem.

Insights into the molecular triggers of parosmia based on gas chromatography olfactometry

This study was conducted by Dr Jane Parker at the University of Reading, Chrissi Kelly, founder of AbScent, and ENT consultant Mr Simon Gane. Chrissi, Jane and Simon work closely together as trustees of the charity AbScent which put them in a unique position to observe what patients were experiencing and investigate the science behind it.

About the study

As a flavour chemist, Jane uses gas chromatography olfactometry to separate out different odour molecules that make up one smell. In this study, she used the technique to separate out the chemicals that make up the smell of instant coffee and let our participants with parosmia after infection smell them one at a time. Most of these people picked out the same chemicals as smelling disgusting and setting off their parosmia.

As the paper states: “These chemicals are known to have strong smells to humans and can be grouped into four classes based on their chemical shape and the elements they contain. These findings help in the understanding of what chemical compounds trigger parosmia, which may help in developing diagnostics and therapies for this condition in the future.”

Patients first

Here at AbScent we are particularly excited by this publication as it directly involved people from the AbScent community affected by parosmia. By sharing their stories and giving generously of their time, we have been able to move the science of smell disorders forward.

Chrissi is an advocate of patient-led research. “Sometimes science has completely ignored the people that research will ultimately help. Research has been something that is ‘done to them’ rather than with them. This study grew out of observations made from talking with hundreds of people and understanding their real life experiences. It’s been very satisfying to work with them to develop scientific knowledge about this debilitating condition.”

Jane explained the importance of the findings, “We do believe that now it’s out there, it will shape future research in parosmia – I spoke about it in the US recently and received a great deal of interest. We really made quite an important breakthrough and the research is changing people’s way of thinking. The best way to finding cures, treatments or prevention is to understand the system you are dealing with, and we’ve made a small, but significant, step in that direction.”


AbScent is delighted that this is published as an open source paper, which means the information is available to anyone without needing to pay. You can read the full paper here.

This blog refers to:

Parker, J.K., Kelly, C.E. & Gane, S.B. Insights into the molecular triggers of parosmia based on gas chromatography olfactometry. Commun Med 2, 58 (2022).

May 24, 2022