Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

How to make high-end perfumes without whale barf

Date:
April 5, 2012
Source:
University of British Columbia
Summary:
Researchers have identified a gene in balsam fir trees that could facilitate cheaper and more sustainable production of plant-based fixatives and scents used in the fragrance industry and reduce the need for ambergris, a substance harvested from whale barf.

University of British Columbia researchers have identified a gene in balsam fir trees that could facilitate cheaper and more sustainable production of plant-based fixatives and scents used in the fragrance industry and reduce the need for ambergris, a substance harvested from whale barf.

Related Articles


When sperm whales consume sharp objects, such as seashells and fish bones, their gut produces a sticky substance to protect their digestive organs. They then regurgitate the mixture -- much like cats throwing up fur balls -- and the vomit, reacting with seawater, turns into rock-like objects that wash ashore. These are collected and refined for their fixative properties. Called ambergris, the scented compound is added to high-end perfumes to help the fragrance stay on the skin longer.

The discovery was led by Prof. Joerg Bohlmann and postdoctoral research associate Philipp Zerbe at UBC's Michael Smith Laboratories. Details are published in the April 6 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

"The use of ambergris in the fragrance industry has been controversial," says Bohlmann, who is a professor of Botany and Forest Sciences. "First of all, it's an animal byproduct and the use of such in cosmetics has been problematic, not to mention it comes from the sperm whale, an endangered species."

Even though much of the ambergris approved for use today is manually collected along the shorelines of known sperm whale habitats in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and in the Caribbean, it is still a costly venture. In the Mediterranean, sage has been cultivated for the production of a plant-based substitute of ambergris, but yields are variable and can be unpredictable, similar to manual collection of ambergris.

"We've now discovered that a gene from balsam fir is much more efficient at producing such natural compounds, which could make production of this bio-product less expensive and more sustainable," says Bohlmann.

The discovery and related technology is currently being commercialized through UBC's University-Industry Liaison Office. The research was supported by Genome Canada, Genome British Columbia, and Genome Alberta through the PhytoMetaSyn Project, and through grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of British Columbia. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. P. Zerbe, A. Chiang, M. Yuen, B. Hamberger, B. Hamberger, J. A. Draper, R. Britton, J. Bohlmann. Bifunctional cis-abienol synthase from Abies balsamea discovered by transcriptome sequencing and its implications for diterpenoid fragrance production. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 2012; DOI: 10.1074/jbc.M111.317669

Cite This Page:

University of British Columbia. "How to make high-end perfumes without whale barf." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 5 April 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120405075357.htm>.
University of British Columbia. (2012, April 5). How to make high-end perfumes without whale barf. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120405075357.htm
University of British Columbia. "How to make high-end perfumes without whale barf." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120405075357.htm (accessed March 5, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Praying Mantis Looks Long Before It Leaps

Praying Mantis Looks Long Before It Leaps

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Mar. 5, 2015) Slowed-down footage of the leaps of praying mantises show the insect&apos;s extraordinary precision, say researchers. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Octopus Grabs Camera and Turns It Around On Photographer

Octopus Grabs Camera and Turns It Around On Photographer

Buzz60 (Mar. 5, 2015) A photographer got the shot of a lifetime, or rather an octopus did, when it grabbed the camera and turned it around to take an amazing picture of the photographer. Jen Markham (@jenmarkham) has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts

Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts

AP (Mar. 5, 2015) The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is ending its iconic elephant acts. The circus&apos; parent company, Feld Entertainment, told the AP exclusively that the acts will be phased out by 2018 over growing public concern about the animals. (March 5) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

Raw: Tourists Visit Rare Grey Whales in Mexico

AP (Mar. 4, 2015) Once nearly extinct, grey whales now migrate in their thousands to Mexico&apos;s Vizcaino reserve in Baja California, in search of warmer waters to mate and give birth. Tourists flock to the reserve to see the whales, measuring up to 49 feet long. (March 4) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins