Utilizing an Electronic Lab Notebook to Engineer Exotic Perfumes from Unlikely Sources


electronic lab notebook
Selectively breeding for color has resulted in flowers with weak fragrances. In the quest to gain better control over perfume ingredients, companies are turning toward engineering microorganisms to produce much-coveted scents. An electronic lab notebook can aid their work.
Image Source: Flickr CC user Naomi King

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet claims “a rose by any other name would still smell sweet.” But in today’s world, is that still true? Many floral experts would say no. In the quest to breed for color, size, and disease resistance, it appears we’ve sacrificed fragrance in the process.

It makes sense. When I buy flowers, I select them based on color and health. Scent doesn’t impact my purchasing decision unless it smells terrible. Floral breeders make their decisions based on buyers like me. The problem with this is that the compounds responsible for fragrance are the same ones that affect pigment. If you boost color, you lose scent.

This bodes ill for the luxury perfumes industry, which depends on strong fragrances. Thankfully, scientists are researching ways to overcome this difficulty. While work is being conducted to genetically engineer flowers to boost their aromas, the answer to the fragrance industry’s conundrum may rest in an unexpected ally: yeast.

Similar to how genetically modified strains can brew a better beer, yeast can also be used to brew a better scent. Work is currently being done to recreate rose oil, a long sought-after scent in luxury fragrances. Due to fluctuating price and quality, obtaining rose oil can be unreliable. By using yeast, perfume companies eliminate uncertainties in availability and gain more control over scent profiles. An electronic lab notebook (ELN) can keep track of the many steps to achieve that goal.

Keeping Track of Yeast Strains

Using yeast strains to recreate rose oil isn’t as outlandish as it sounds. Roses use enzymes to create that much-coveted sweet smell. By modifying the yeast genome, scientists can ensure a strain’s metabolic processes form the compounds that result in the desired scent.

Because rose scent is made up of different compounds, an electronic lab notebook can keep track of the research to recreate each of them. It’s crucial to note which rose genes prove the most promising. Or perhaps the answer doesn’t come from roses at all. The enzyme processes in other plants like corn and hyacinths also form compounds found in rose oil. The electronic lab notebook’s indexing features makes it simple to identify which genes from which sources lead to the best product.

Testing the Results

It’s not enough to simply recreate the compounds. Researchers must also confirm quality. Yeast has a characteristic sour smell, which is hardly an attractive trait in perfume. Likewise, it’s not enough for the scent to smell “somewhat green.” It must smell like a rose.

This is where an electronic lab notebook’s collaborative tools come in handy. When scientists send scent samples to their fragrance testers, those reviewers can immediately record their impressions. Because the lab notebook is digital, it can be accessed by all collaborators at any time. Built-in communication tools can notify lab researchers of the testers’ evaluations. Are the scents too strong or weak? Do they need to bring out the fruity notes more? Maybe the musky notes are overpowering and need to be minimized. This type of rapid feedback encourages laboratory efficiency, because it tells researchers where to focus their efforts and which avenues to pursue.

Protecting Intellectual Property

Perfume formulations are closely guarded secrets among fragrance companies. Shifting sources from flowers to yeast won’t change this. If anything, protecting those trade secrets will become even more imperative.

An electronic lab notebook has built-in security features to protect data. Only authorized users with the proper credentials can access the electronic lab notebook. With automated timestamps, data cannot be changed without leaving a record. In addition, the electronic lab notebook keeps track of who alters a field. Because of these features, data cannot be manipulated or accessed with leaving a record.

Electronic Lab Notebooks Could Be a Saving Grace in this CPG Space

It’s not just rose oils that can benefit from this research. Scientists hope to use yeast to recreate other scents like those obtained from rare jungle orchids or ambergris, which comes from the sperm whale’s gut. It might even allow us to recreate scents from long-extinct flowers. The possibilities seem endless, and an electronic lab notebook can help the perfume industry every step of the way.

Are you interested in learning how an electronic lab notebook can keep your research organized and available for great collaboration while keeping your intellectual property secure? Visit our website to learn more about the BIOVIA Notebook today.

6 thoughts on “Utilizing an Electronic Lab Notebook to Engineer Exotic Perfumes from Unlikely Sources

  1. You mean to tell me that perfume companies don’t already artificially manufacture their scents? I assumed they would, just like how food companies can chemically recreate the flavors of foods.

  2. To come up with a perfect scent that customers will really like it will take lots of trials and mixtures. ELNs do a great job of keeping track of all the information.

  3. If you could use this technology for these sorts of chemical creations, it is interesting to think you it would apply to other compositions. Research can now proceed at an ever quickening pace due to ELNs.

  4. Turdelle, perfume companies do use synthetic compounds for some of their fragrances but the high-end, luxury fragrances still depend on natural products. Rose oil, in particular, is sought after because synthetic rose scent doesn’t have the complexity of the real thing. What they’re hoping to do with this genetic engineering is to create the “natural” thing via a more controlled method.

  5. Kirk, it looks like there’s a lot of potential with genetic engineering yeast. I can’t wait to see what other uses scientists come up with!

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