Professor Emeritus Hitoshi Sakano Wins the Medal with Purple Ribbon
Professor Yuichi Iino, Department of Biological Sciences
Professor Emeritus Hitoshi Sakano, who had been long engaged in research and education at the former Department of Biophysics and Biochemistry, School of Science, and retired from The University of Tokyo in March 2012, won the Medal with Purple Ribbon for spring 2014. He was honored for his neuroscience study to elucidate mammalian olfactory systems, which was initiated in 1994 when he transferred to the department. To clarify how mammals detect and recognize countless smells in nature, he first elucidated a mechanism in which each olfactory cell expresses only one olfactory receptor, and then a mechanism in which nerve fibers of the olfactory cells that express each olfactory receptor create accurate odor maps in a proper region of the brain. Different mechanisms are used for respective two-dimensional axes (the dorsal-ventral axis and the anterior-posterior axis), and the projection locations are determined by the combination of the mechanisms. He also clarified that a strong fear response due to the odor of natural enemies is regulated by a certain region of the brain. These findings were published in prestigious journals, including Science, Cell, and Nature. In 2013, after retiring from The University of Tokyo, he published his culmination of a series of research achievements in Cell, in which he resolved all questions, i.e., that each olfactory receptor has an individual basal activity in an odorless state, which regulates how olfactory sensory neurons determine the projection locations on a two-dimensional map on the brain. His excellent results were achieved by his strenuous efforts and his constant persistence. We also extend our sincere congratulations to his laboratory members who lived up to the rigorous expectations to build groundwork for the award.
― Office of Communication ―