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Nobel laureate Dr. Linda Buck elected to American Academy of Arts & Sciences 2008 Class of Fellows

SEATTLE Nobel laureate Linda Buck, Ph.D., member of the Basic Sciences Division at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, has been elected to membership in the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, or AAAS, one of the nations oldest and most prestigious honorary societies and independent policy-research centers. She is among 190 new fellows and 22 foreign honorary members to join the AAAS 2008 class of fellows. Drawn from the sciences, the arts and humanities, public affairs and the nonprofit sector, AAAS fellows are leaders in their fields. This years class includes Nobel laureates, recipients of Pulitzer and Pritzker prizes, Academy and Grammy awards and Kennedy Center honors. The latest honorees include blues guitarist B.B. King, filmmakers Ethan and Joel Cohen, and astronomer Adam Riess, who contributed to the discovery of dark energy in the universe. (Please see below for link to AAAS news release and complete list of winners.)

Buck in 2004 received the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine for her groundbreaking work on odorant receptors and the organization of the olfactory system the network responsible for our sense of smell. She shared the honor with Richard Axel, Ph.D., of Columbia University.

Buck, who joined the Hutchinson Center faculty in 2002 after 11 years as a faculty member at Harvard Medical School, is the fifth Hutchinson Center researcher to be elected for AAAS membership.

She was a senior postdoctoral researcher in Axels laboratory when she disclosed the nature of the olfactory receptors, and they co-published this work in 1991. Their work is the first to define one of our sensory systems in the most detailed manner possible by defining the genes and proteins that control this remarkably complex response. This was a landmark achievement in the study of the nervous system.

The basic principles for recognizing and remembering about 10,000 different odors have long been a mystery. In a series of pioneering studies, Buck clarified how our olfactory system works. She discovered a large gene family, made up of some 1,000 different genes that give rise to an equivalent number of olfactory-receptor types. These receptors are located on the olfactory receptor cells, which occupy a small area in the upper part of the lining of the nose and detect the inhaled odorant molecules.

Buck and Axel showed that every single olfactory-receptor cell produces one and only one of the odorant receptor genes. Thus, there are as many types of olfactory- receptor cells as there are odorant receptors.

Most odors are composed of multiple odorant molecules. Buck discovered that each odorant molecule activates several different odorant receptors and each odorant receptor can recognize multiple odorants, but that different odorants even closely related ones activate different combinations of receptors. This leads to a combinatorial code forming an "odorant pattern" somewhat like the colors in a patchwork quilt or in a mosaic. This is the basis for our ability to recognize and form memories of approximately 10,000 different odors, as well as our ability to distinguish odorants with nearly identical chemical structures as having different smells.

Buck has also discovered and characterized families of receptors for pheromones and tastes, providing insights into the mechanisms underlying pheromone effects and taste perception.

Buck, also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and an affiliate professor in the Department of Physiology and Biophysics at the University of Washington, is the recipient of many national and international scientific awards. In 2003 she received the Gairdner Award, the Perl-UNC Neuroscience Prize and was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences. Shes also the recipient of the Unilever Science Award, the LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton Science for Art Prize, the R.H. Wright Award in Olfactory Research and the Lewis S. Rosenstiel Award for Distinguished Work in Basic Medical Research.


Contact: Kristen Woodward
Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center

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