The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2004

The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2004



The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet has awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine jointly to Richard Axel and Linda Buck for their discoveries of odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system. In a series of pioneering studies the laureates have clarified in molecular detail how our sense of smell works.

  prize winners

Richard Axel
Born 1946
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Columbia University,
New York, USA.

Linda Buck
Born 1947
Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center,
University of Washington, Seattle, USA.

The vivid world of odours

The olfactory system is important for our quality of life. A unique odour can trigger distinct memories from our childhood or from emotional moments – positive or negative – later in life. When something tastes good it is mainly due to activation of the olfactory system.

To lose the sense of smell is a significant handicap; we no longer perceive the different qualities of food and we cannot detect warning signals, for example smoke from a fire.

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