Very few in this world have the opportunity to do every day what they love, as I have.
When they began, some basics were known. Air breathed into the nose flows across moist membranes, past sensory receptors. When a receptor recognizes a specific fragrance molecule, the information is relayed to the brain’s olfactory lobe. From there, messages are sent to the temporal lobe, which stores memories, or to the ancient parts of the brain that prompt emotions, sexuality, appetite, and aggression or flight. What lay behind the receptors and what triggered the response?
When Buck and Axel announced their breakthrough in 1991, they had identified eighteen of the genes that contain blueprints for smell-receptors, and that number has grown. Their work showed that more genes control the sense of smell than any other sense – smell is crucial to human survival. In 2002, Buck returned to Seattle to continue olfactory research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, as a UW Professor of Physiology and Biophysics.