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Monell Chemical Senses Center

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The Monell Chemical Senses Center is a non-profit independent scientific institute located at the University City Science Center research campus in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Monell is the leading institute dedicated to conducting and publishing interdisciplinary basic research on taste, smell, and chemesthesis (chemically-mediated skin senses, such as the burn of capsaicin or the tingle of carbonation).

Founded in 1968, the Center’s mission is to advance knowledge of the mechanisms and functions of the chemical senses to benefit human health and well-being. Knowledge gained from Monell’s basic research provides insight and solutions for issues related to public health, national health policy, and quality of life, including studies of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, pediatric health, occupational safety, environmental interactions, and homeland security.

Monell has a scientific staff of more than 50 Ph.D.-level scientists. Situated in the academic heart of Philadelphia’s University City Science Center, the Center occupies two buildings with a total of Template:Convert/sqftTemplate:Convert/test/A. The institute is operated as a non-profit organization and receives funding from government grants, primarily from the National Institutes of Health through the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, as well as from foundations and unrestricted corporate sponsorships.

HistoryEdit

In the 1960s, very little was understood about the essential mechanisms and functions of what were thought to be the “minor senses” — taste and smell. As a junior professor in the veterinary school at Cornell, Morley Kare became interested in these senses as he investigated food choice across a variety of species. Dr. Kare envisioned a scientific institute dedicated to the study of these senses that are central to nutrition, health and well being.

In 1967, The Ambrose Monell Foundation made an initial pledge of $1 million to create the Monell Chemical Senses Center, with Dr. Kare as Director. With encouragement from the government (e.g., the National Science Foundation and the Veterans Affairs Administration) and from corporate leaders, and after consulting with several universities, Dr. Kare, the directors of the Monell Foundation, and administrators at the University of Pennsylvania agreed that Penn would be the ideal home for such a research institute. The Center was first housed in the old Lippincott Publications bindery building owned by Penn at 25th and Locust Streets. In 1971, Monell moved into its current home at 3500 Market Street.

The organization of the Monell Center was unusual for the time; it began as a joint venture involving academic, government, and industry scientists, when such collaborations were rare. Early in Monell’s history, Dr. Kare said, “Monell itself is a scientific experiment.” Monell’s growth was rapid, and in 1978 the Monell Center separated from Penn to become an independent nonprofit research institute. The two institutions continue to maintain a close relationship.

LeadershipEdit

Gary K. Beauchamp was appointed in 1990 as the Center’s second Director, a position he holds today. Dwight Riskey is Board Chair. Many eminent scientists, academicians and business executives have served the Center as board members and members of advisory committees.

ResearchEdit

Monell’s approach to science is predicated on multidisciplinary interaction. Everything possible is done to ensure that Monell scientists – psychologists, biologists, chemists, neuroscientists, geneticists and others – can and will collaborate toward the common objective of achieving a comprehensive understanding of the chemical senses. The Center has no departmental structure and its laboratories and offices generally are not segregated by discipline.

Science at Monell can be categorized into six overlapping programmatic areas, with the specific research program of any given Monell scientist falling under multiple categories. It is becoming increasingly apparent that the senses of taste and smell influence human health and well-being in myriad ways and that research on these senses is central to many current human health problems, including obesity, diabetes and hypertension.

  • Sensation and Perception explores how humans recognize, perceive and respond to tastes, odors and chemical irritants. Many studies focus on individual differences, examining how genetics, age, gender, experience, and the environment influence our sensory capabilities. Scientists also explore how interactions within and among the senses influence how we perceive taste, smell and flavor.
  • Neuroscience and Molecular Biology addresses questions of how taste and smell receptor cells recognize and respond to chemical stimuli, and how this information is transmitted to and processed in the brain. Monell is a pioneer in the use of living human taste and olfactory receptor cells to show how disease states affect taste and smell. Scientists are pinpointing which genes are responsible for individual differences in how we perceive tastes and smells. Related studies explore how genetically-determined differences in taste and smell relate to nutritional status, alcoholism and obesity.
  • Environmental and Occupational Health focuses on both positive and negative health effects of exposure to airborne chemicals in home, work, and outdoor environments. Studies examine the impact of volatile chemicals on chemosensory function and bodily processes, and address the role of cognitive expectations in the response to airborne chemicals. Experimental, epidemiological, and modeling approaches enhance understanding of the chemical senses in occupational and environmental settings.
  • Appetite and Nutrition studies determinants of food and flavor preferences across the human lifespan and how these change as a function of disease and treatment status. Researchers also explore basic biochemical, neural and physiological mechanisms controlling appetite and food intake to determine their role in overeating and the development of obesity. Other studies probe food cravings and appetites for minerals such as salt and calcium.
  • Health and Well-Being targets diseases of taste and smell. Monell’s research scientists interact with clinicians to understand the causes and shed light on to potential cures for these diseases, which can reduce quality of life, induce nutritional imbalance, and render us more vulnerable to food poisoning, environmental toxins, and fire hazards. The production and communicative functions of human body and mouth odors are another focus of investigation.
  • Chemical Ecology and Communication investigates the roles of chemical signals, including pheromones and individual ‘odortypes’, in human reproductive behavior and social communication. In conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Monell scientists also study the mechanisms that underlie chemosensory-mediated attraction or repellency in birds, reptiles, and fish. This knowledge is helping to identify ways to protect threatened species, minimize crop damage, control non-indigenous species, and find non-lethal solutions to conflicts between humans and wildlife.


Selected Monell AchievementsEdit

  • Characterized the first sweet-tasting protein, “Monellin,” broadening the concept of sweet taste [1]
  • Demonstrated that bodily odors can signal disease even before appearance of overt symptoms [2]
  • Revealed critical role of perinatal experience in establishing flavor preferences of infants, children, and adults [3]
  • Described role of liver chemosensors in control of appetite and satiety [4]
  • Established that genetically-determined odortypes provide signals of individual identity [5]
  • Developed the Labeled Magnitude Scale to reliably measure human sensory perception [6]
  • Pioneered use of living human tissue to characterize human olfactory and taste cell function [7]
  • Identified one of the receptors for sweet taste [8]
  • Established use of chemosignals as effective nonlethal means of vertebrate pest control [9]
  • Demonstrated influential role of diet in adult preference for salty taste [10][11]
  • Combined sensory and genetic approaches to document unique sensory worlds for every individual [12][13]
  • Used sensory properties of olive oil to identify oleocanthal, a novel anti-inflammatory compound [14]



References Edit

  1. Morris, J. A., Martenson, R., Deibler, G., and Cagan, R. H. (1973). Characterization of monellin, a protein that tastes sweet. Journal of Biological Chemistry, 248, 534-539.
  2. Yamazaki, K., Beauchamp, G. K., Singer, A. G., Bard, J., and Boyse, E. A. (1999). Odortypes: Their origin and composition. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 96, 1522-1525.
  3. Mennella, J. A. (2007). The chemical senses and the development of flavor preferences in humans. In: Hartmann, P. E. and Hale, T., Textbook on Human Lactation. Hale Publishing, Texas, pp 403 - 414.
  4. Friedman, M. I. (1997). An energy sensor for control of energy intake. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 56, 41-50.
  5. Yamazaki, K., Beauchamp, G. K., Singer, A. G., Bard, J., and Boyse, E. A. (1999). Odortypes: Their origin and composition. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA, 96, 1522-1525.
  6. Green, B. G., Shaffer, G. S., and Gilmore, M. M. (1993). Derivation and evaluation of a semantic scale of oral sensation magnitude with apparent ratio properties. Chemical Senses, 18, 683-702.
  7. Rawson, N. E., Gomez, G., Cowart, B. J., Brand, J., Lowry, L. D., Pribitkin, E. A., and Restrepo, D. (1997). Selectivity and response characteristics of human olfactory neurons. Journal of Neurophysiology , 77, 1606-1613.
  8. Bachmanov, A. A., Li, X., Reed, D. R., Ohmen, J. D., Li, S., Chen, Z., Tordoff, M. G., de Jong, P. J., Wu, C., West, D. B., Chatterjee, A., Ross, D. A., and Beauchamp, G. K. (2001). Positional cloning of the mouse saccharin preference (Sac) locus. Chemical Senses, 26, 925-933.
  9. Clark, L. and Mason, J. R. (1992). Nonlethal repellents: The development of cost-effective, practical solutions to agricultural and industrial problems. Proceedings of the Vertebrate Pest Conference, 15, 115-129.
  10. Beauchamp, G. K., Bertino, M., Burke, D., and Engelman, K. (1991). Experimental sodium depletion and salt taste in normal human volunteers. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 51, 881-889.
  11. Bertino, M., Beauchamp, G. K., and Engelman, K. (1982). Long-term reduction in dietary sodium alters the taste of salt. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 36, 1134-1144.
  12. Breslin, P. A. S. and Spector, A. C. (2009). Mammalian taste perception. Current Biology, 18, R148-R155.
  13. Chen, Q. Y., Alarcon, S., Tharp, A., Ahmed, O. M., Estrella, N. L., Greene, T. A., Rucker, J., and Breslin, P. A. S. (2009). Perceptual variation in umami taste and polymorphisms in TAS1R taste receptor genes. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 90, 770S-779S.
  14. Beauchamp, G. K., Keast, R. S. J., Morel, D. Lin J., Pika, J., Han, Q., Lee, C-H, Smith, A. B., III, and Breslin, P. A. S. (2005). Ibuprofen-like activity in extra-virgin olive oil. Nature, 437, 45-46.


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