By Nicole Garneau, PhD
Our Genetics of Taste laboratory is first and foremost a
community lab with the goal of making real scientific research
accessible to the public, something we take pride in here at the
Denver Museum of Nature & Science. Although we only study one
small part of taste- the ability to taste specific bitter
compounds- we are interested in bringing all aspects of flavor
perception to our Museum guests and volunteers. To that end, we are
so lucky to have a group of taste and smell scientists right here
in the Denver area, The Rocky Mountain Taste and Smell
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We recently invited three of the head researchers and their
laboratory scientists and students over to the Museum to tour the
Genetics of Taste lab and to learn more about our community-based
study. As you'll see from the following pictures, a visit to our
lab is directly proportional to an increase of blue tongues
world-wide and an increase in a love for science (no stats to prove
this, but I'm sure it's statistically significant).
As you can see, Dr. Ernie Salcedo's lab most definitely had a good
time. When not posing with their blazing blue tongues on display,
they spend their time studying the sense of smell, or olfaction.
They are interested in understanding how the chemical information
of odors from the environment is converted into an electrochemical
signal that our brain can recognize.
An additional six tongues, from Dr. Linda Barlow's laboratory,
were swabbed for the full effort of the tour. If you've ever
wondered how we get the unique pattern of bumps on our tongue, this
is the group to explain it. The Barlow lab studies how the taste
system develops in embryos, and how this system is maintained and
regenerated in adults.
Finally, Dr. Tom Finger's group visited after the joint lecture he
and I presented recently with Chef Ian Kleinman, called "Genes and
Cuisines that Reign Supreme". There we learned about one of Dr.
Finger's research interests, and of course its one we have in
common, taste. While we in the Genetics of Taste lab are working
toward understanding taste and health at the population level , the
Finger lab is looking at how we detect chemicals in our environment
and in our food at the molecular level and how the brain then
processes this information.
For more information about the Rocky Mountain Taste and Smell