Monell Chemical Senses Center

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Monell Chemical Senses Center
DirectorRobert Margolskee
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Address3500 Market Street

The Monell Chemical Senses Center is a non-profit independent scientific institute located at the University City Science Center research campus in Philadelphia, in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. Monell conducts and publishes interdisciplinary basic research on taste, smell, and chemesthesis (chemically mediated skin senses, such as the burn of capsaicin or the tingle of carbonation).


Monell was founded in 1968. The center's mission is to advance knowledge of the mechanisms and functions of the chemical senses to benefit human health and well-being. Knowledge gained from Monell’s basic research provides insight and solutions for issues related to public health, national health policy, and quality of life, including studies of obesity, diabetes, hypertension, pediatric health, occupational safety, environmental interactions, and national defense.[1]

Monell has a scientific staff of more than 50 scientists and provides research opportunities for local high school and undergraduate students. Situated in the academic heart of Philadelphia’s University City Science Center, the center occupies two buildings with a total of 80,000 square feet (7,400 m2). Monell is operated as a non-profit organization and receives funding from government grants, primarily from the National Institutes of Health through the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, as well as from private foundations and unrestricted corporate gifts.[1]


Robert Margolskee was appointed in 2014 as the center's third Director. Dwight Riskey is Board Chair. Many eminent scientists, academicians and business executives have served the center as board members and members of advisory committees.


Social decisions and olfactory cues in children[edit]

In late 2016, Monell announced that it had completed research that concluded toddlers use sensory information to make social decisions. The study included 140 children between the ages of three and eleven years old. They were invited to participate while visiting a children's museum. Each child was exposed for three seconds to odors from fish, rose, or a placebo. The children were then immediately shown pictures of the same person with a disgusted face and a happy face and asked to choose one.[2]

The children then were asked about how pleasant the odor was. Children five and under generally chose the happy face regardless of the odor they were presented with or what face they chose. Starting around age five, odor impacted which faces the children selected; They generally selected faces based on the pleasantness of the odor. For example, being exposed to the fish odor boosted the likelihood of choosing the disgusted face.[2]

Selected achievements[edit]

  • Characterized the first sweet-tasting protein, “Monellin,” broadening the concept of sweet taste[3]
  • Demonstrated that bodily odors can signal disease even before appearance of overt symptoms[4]
  • Revealed critical role of perinatal experience in establishing flavor preferences of infants, children, and adults[5]
  • Described role of liver chemosensors in control of appetite and satiety.[6]
  • Established that genetically-determined odortypes provide signals of individual identity.[7]
  • Developed the labeled magnitude scale to reliably measure human sensory perception.[8]
  • Pioneered use of living human tissue to characterize human olfactory and taste cell function.[9]
  • Identified one of the receptors for sweet taste.[10]
  • Established use of chemosignals as effective nonlethal means of vertebrate pest control.[11]
  • Demonstrated influential role of diet in adult preference for salty taste.[12][13]
  • Combined sensory and genetic approaches to document unique sensory worlds for every individual.[14][15]
  • Used sensory properties of olive oil to identify oleocanthal, a novel anti-inflammatory compound.[16]


Monell publishes a quarterly electronic newsletter dedicated to news about the center's activities and the latest information on relevant science.[1]

Notable members[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Monell Chemical Senses Center". National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. 8 April 2019. Retrieved 10 July 2019. The Monell Chemical Senses Center (Monell) is the world’s only nonprofit basic research institute devoted to the study of taste, smell, and chemical irritation.
  2. ^ a b "With eyes or noses? How young children use sensory cues to make social decisions". PsyPost. United States. 19 December 2016. Retrieved 11 September 2019.
  3. ^ Morris, James A.; Martenson, Russell; Deibler, Gladys; Cagan, Robert H. (1973-01-25). "Characterization of Monellin, a Protein That Tastes Sweet". Journal of Biological Chemistry. 248 (2): 534–539. PMID 4684691.
  4. ^ Yamazaki K., Beauchamp G. K., Singer A. G., Bard J., Boyse E. A. (1999). "Odortypes: Their origin and composition". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. 96: 1522–1525. doi:10.1073/pnas.96.4.1522. PMC 15502.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. ^ Mennella, J. A. (2007). The chemical senses and the development of flavor preferences in humans. In: Hartmann, P. E. and Hale, T., Textbook on Human Lactation. Hale Publishing, Texas, pp 403 - 414.
  6. ^ Friedman M. I. (1997). "An energy sensor for control of energy intake". Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. 56: 41–50. doi:10.1079/pns19970008.
  7. ^ Yamazaki K., Beauchamp G. K., Singer A. G., Bard J., Boyse E. A. (1999). "Odortypes: Their origin and composition". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. 96: 1522–1525. doi:10.1073/pnas.96.4.1522. PMC 15502.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  8. ^ Green B. G., Shaffer G. S., Gilmore M. M. (1993). "Derivation and evaluation of a semantic scale of oral sensation magnitude with apparent ratio properties". Chemical Senses. 18: 683–702. doi:10.1093/chemse/18.6.683.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Rawson N. E., Gomez G., Cowart B. J., Brand J., Lowry L. D., Pribitkin E. A., Restrepo D. (1997). "Selectivity and response characteristics of human olfactory neurons". Journal of Neurophysiology. 77: 1606–1613. doi:10.1152/jn.1997.77.3.1606.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  10. ^ Bachmanov A. A., Li X., Reed D. R., Ohmen J. D., Li S., Chen Z., Tordoff M. G., de Jong P. J., Wu C., West D. B., Chatterjee A., Ross D. A., Beauchamp G. K. (2001). "Positional cloning of the mouse saccharin preference (Sac) locus". Chemical Senses. 26: 925–933. doi:10.1093/chemse/26.7.925. PMC 3644801.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  11. ^ Clark L., Mason J. R. (1992). "Nonlethal repellents: The development of cost-effective, practical solutions to agricultural and industrial problems". Proceedings of the Vertebrate Pest Conference. 15: 115–129.
  12. ^ Beauchamp G. K., Bertino M., Burke D., Engelman K. (1991). "Experimental sodium depletion and salt taste in normal human volunteers". American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 51: 881–889. doi:10.1093/ajcn/51.5.881.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  13. ^ Bertino M., Beauchamp G. K., Engelman K. (1982). "Long-term reduction in dietary sodium alters the taste of salt". American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 36: 1134–1144. doi:10.1093/ajcn/36.6.1134.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  14. ^ Breslin P. A. S., Spector A. C. (2009). "Mammalian taste perception". Current Biology. 18: R148–R155. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2007.12.017.
  15. ^ Chen Q. Y., Alarcon S., Tharp A., Ahmed O. M., Estrella N. L., Greene T. A., Rucker J., Breslin P. A. S. (2009). "Perceptual variation in umami taste and polymorphisms in TAS1R taste receptor genes". American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 90: 770S–779S. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2009.27462n. PMC 3136006.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  16. ^ Beauchamp G. K., Keast R. S. J., Morel D. Lin J., Pika J., Han Q., Lee C-H, Smith A. B., III , Breslin P. A. S. (2005). "Ibuprofen-like activity in extra-virgin olive oil". Nature. 437: 45–46. doi:10.1038/437045a.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°57′21″N 75°11′35″W / 39.9558°N 75.1931°W / 39.9558; -75.1931