Andrew I. Spielman, D.M.D., Ph.D., is Associate Dean for Academic
Affairs and Professor of Basic Science and Craniofacial Biology
I. Spielman doesnt have to be reminded to stop and smell the
roses. For nearly two decades, Dr. Spielman has been at the forefront
of research investigating how smell and taste serve as screening
mechanisms to distinguish chemicals in nature that cause either
attraction or repulsion.
particular focus is on the key roles that taste and smell play in
nutrition and food selection, including promoting or inhibiting
pleasure, efficient metabolism, and a good overall quality of life.
During the past decade, considerable progress has been made toward
understanding the basic mechanisms of taste and smell, but there
is still limited knowledge of taste and smell dysfunctions among
many practitioners and the general public. Indeed, although more
than two million Americans suffer from disorders that affect the
sense of olfaction and/or gustation, chemosensory disorders do not
evoke the same degree of public recognition as do hearing and vision
impairment. Much remains to be done and current demographics underscore
the need for speed.
dysfunctions affect a disproportionate number of the elderly, the
fastest-growing segment of the population in the Western world.
Hence, the importance of Dr. Spielmans efforts, which seek
to clarify the molecular events that underlie abnormal chemosensory
function in order to improve diagnostic techniques.
For many chemosensory
disorder sufferers, the problem is underdiagnosis because many dentists
and physicians do not know what to look for. As a result, many patients
become concerned about the seriousness of their disorder and develop
depression. The situation is exacerbated by the fact that treatment
of these disorders is still limited to conditions with discernible
and reversible causes. Yet, says Dr. Spielman, if
people knew that they had an untreatable but not life-threatening
disease, as most chemosensory disorders are, the likelihood is that
they would cope with the situation better. Were not yet very
advanced in this area of health, but we have made a start. More
research funding is needed to improve understanding of chemosensory
mechanisms, develop better diagnostic procedures, and disseminate
knowledge among practitioners and the general public.