How Welsh Scientists' Study of Mother Nature's Smells Could Create Perfect Perfume; CARDIFF TEAM IN Pounds 1M RESEARCH INTO INSECTS

Article excerpt

Byline: SALLY WILLIAMS

IT SOUNDS like the perfect perfume - one with a divine aroma that never fades and is irresistibly attractive to the opposite sex.

And while such a product might exist only in the realms of fantasy for now, Welsh researchers have been given pounds 1m to make it a reality - and they hope to do so by studying insects.

The team of scientists from Cardiff University hope that by understanding the way insects respond to scents, they will be able to manufacture far more sophisticated smells and scents.

It is hoped the result could also help protect crops from disease and even help make life-saving anti-cancer drugs.

Lead researcher, Professor Rudolf Allemann, from the university's school of chemistry, said his team aims to enhance the structural characteristics of scent molecules, to produce improved versions that are stronger and last longer.

"At the moment we are trying to come up with a chemical message to protect crops from attacks and from all kinds of pests in an environmentally-friendly way, using nature's own enzymes," he said.

"Herbicides and pesticides can be very harsh.

"So we are trying to find natural substances to do what they do.

"Say we have two fields in Africa and one crop to harvest.

"We would grow a plant that attracts all the insects and is useless in one field, so that they leave the other useful crop alone.

"It is a case of having the right plants growing next to each other and using nature to protect or enhance crops.

"We want to understand the structure of natural substances and the traits of plants and enhance them to make them better."

If applied to perfume, he said, the research could potentially make scents that last all day and individuals more attractive to the opposite sex.

"Insects, animals and humans use chemical signals such as sweat and pheromones as a sex attractant," he said.

"Some studies show that sweatier people are more attractive to the opposite sex. "And if applied to plants sending out scent signals to honey bees, it would also make them more successful at reproduction. …