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Unraveling the sense of smell

An odor can trigger a memory, cause disgust, or even save our lives. Nonetheless olfaction still remains the most enigmatic of our senses. Its mysteries and marvels will be analyzed by Nobel Prize Linda Buck.  How can human beings and mammalians recognize and remember more than 10,000 different odours and how is it possible that almost identical substances produce distinct odours? This is the enigma that toward the mid-1980s fascinated Linda Buck, American neurobiologist, leading her to be awarded, jointly with Richard Axel, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2004 owing to the their discoveries of odorant receptors (proteins) and the organization of the olfactory system.

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And now I’ve got to explain the smell that was in there before I went in there. Does that ever happen to you? It’s not your fault. You’ve held your breath, you just wanna get out, and now you open the door and you have to explain, ‘Oh! Listen, there’s an odor in there and I didn’t do it. It’s bad.

— Ellen DeGeneres