The Taste and Smell Clinic is the most successful clinical program in the world devoted to evaluation and treatment of patients with taste and smell dysfunction. Thousands of patients have been treated at The Clinic since its inception. Patients come from all over the world to achieve relief of their various complaints of both loss and distortion of taste and smell.
The Taste and Smell Clinic in Washington, D.C. was the first clinical facility in the world established to evaluate and treat patients with dysfunction related to taste and smell. This program was initially set up as part of the clinical research program of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute of the NIH in Bethesda, MD. In 1969 it became the clinical arm of the Section on Neuroendocrinology of which Dr. Henkin was the chief. Both inpatients and outpatients were evaluated and treated in this program and studied on a metabolic ward administered by Dr. Henkin. To measure taste and smell function the first systematic tests to measure taste and smell function in patients with these problems were developed and put into practice. To understand the basic mechanisms of taste and smell physiology, systematic, fundamental studies of zinc and copper metabolism in normal volunteers and in patients with a variety of diseases were undertaken and continued for the next 10 years. Through these metabolic studies and use of radioactive and stable zinc isotopes the first basic knowledge of zinc and copper metabolism in patients with taste and smell dysfunction and other clinical disorders including cancer, neurological diseases, endocrine, and metabolic disorders, nutritional and genetic abnormalities of various types was established. The first systematic studies of zinc metabolism using mathematical modeling with compartmental analysis were completed during this period.
It soon became clear that saliva played a major role in control of taste function. This realization led to performance of the first systematic studies identifying the major proteins in human parotid saliva and identified gustin, a zinc metalloprotein, as a taste bud growth factor. This work has continued through the present time, performed with the assistance of Dr. Brian Martin of the NIH, with identification and sequencing of gustin as the enzyme carbonic anhydrase (CA) VI They identified CAVI as a growth factor in maturation and development of taste buds through its action on stem cells in the taste bud by a mechanism similar manner of the effects of nerve growth factor (NGF) on sympathetic ganglion cells. They also have performed the first systematic studies identifying the major proteins in human nasal mucus. They identified CAVI and other proteins as growth factors involved in maturation and development of olfactory epithelial cells through their action on stem cells in the olfactory epithelium, similar to their action as growth factors in saliva. While studies at NIH have continued through the present time, in 1975 the clinical and research programs relocated to the Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. to accommodate the success and growth of these programs achieved at NIH.
At the Georgetown University Medical Center Dr. Henkin served as Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics. His program was administered through founding of The Center for Molecular Nutrition and Sensory Disorders, and its clinical program, The Taste and Smell Clinic. These programs served as the basis for the first extensive research and clinical center in the private sector devoted to taste and smell. Studies in various aspects of taste and smell physiology and pathology were undertaken, many sponsored by grants from NIH and private commercial and charitable organizations. These included studies of cancer anorexia, effects of X- and neutron radiation on taste and saliva, studies of zinc metabolism in normal subjects, in the aged and the effects of fiber on zinc absorption and distribution. The first functional neuroradiological studies dealing with taste and smell pathology were performed during this time with assistance of Dr. Dieter Schellinger and Dr. Lucien Levy of the Division of Neuroradiology. These studies were the first to demonstrate the anatomical location of olfactory perception in the brain through development of brain maps developed through use of brain functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), first in subjects with normal smell and then in patients who had lost smell function. Quantitative abnormalities of loss of function in patients with smell loss was discovered and represented the first demonstration of loss of smell function by a totally objective technique. Treatment of these patients with various drugs was then discovered to correct these hypofunction abnormalities with return of normal smell function. These fMRI techniques were also used to demonstrate changes in brain function in patients with distortions of taste and smell who demonstrated quantitative abnormalities of excessive function by fMRI. Treatment of these patients with various drugs was discovered to correct these hyperfunction abnormalities and to return their abnormal function to normal.
With continued growth of the clinical and research programs more space and facilities were required. The Taste and Smell Clinic transferred to the private sector in 1986 while maintaining its relationships with NIH, the Georgetown University Medical Center and recently the George Washington University Medical Center. Because of the move into the private sector a new commercial entity, Sialon, was established to deal with the novel techniques developed at The Taste and Smell Clinic. Many of these technologies been granted US patents and are in the process of being developed by various private companies in the US and abroad. These technologies involve novel modalities to correct various aspects of taste and smell disorders and include treatments for loss and distortion of taste and smell function, disorders of oral cavity sensation including lingual and oral burning, and disorders of perception of local and systemic odors related to body odor.
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