- NAME: Richard Axel
- OCCUPATION: Neurologist
- BIRTH DATE: July 02, 1946 (Age: 67)
- Did You Know?: While playing on the basketball team at Stuyvesant High School, Richard Axel played against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on the court. Jabbar scored 54 points and Axel scored two.
- EDUCATION: Stuyvesant High School, Columbia University, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
- PLACE OF BIRTH: Brooklyn, New York
- Full Name: Richard Axel
- ZODIAC SIGN: Cancer
Best Known For
American neuroscientist Richard Axel is best known for his work on the olfactory system, exploring how the brain interprets smell.
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It wasn't long before his superior, Sol Spiegelman, gave Axel the opportunity to work as an assistant professor and operate within his own lab in the Institute of Cancer Research at Columbia in 1974. While working as an assistant professor, the novel concept of isolating genes and transforming DNA, which came to be known as recombinant DNA, was developed.
While the discovery was landmark—it was the beginnings of what became known as biotechnology—recombinant DNA caused an uproar among the masses,
who said the scientists were playing God by interfering with the natural design of DNA. In 1978, Axel became a professor in his own right and continued his research concerning DNA. Four years later, Axel decided to apply what he discovered in molecular biology and apply it to the problems of the mind in neuroscience.
Although Axel wasn't knowledgeable on the subject, as he continued to study of the brain with his colleagues then his interest in neuroscience grew throughout the '80s. It was during this time that he began working on the link between genetics and the way the outside world is interpreted by the brain. Axel worked with one of his students from Columbia during the early '80s, Linda B. Buck, to conduct his research. Within the next few years, the duo made the discovery that 1,000 genes that encode odor receptors were in the nasal cavity. After the receptors encode the odors, signals are sent to the brain and interpret what the smell is.
They published their research in the paper "A Novel Multigene Family May Encode Odorant Receptors: A Molecular Basis for Odor Recognition," in 1999. Their influential and impactful discovery didn't go unnoticed. In 2004, they were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Axel is married to fellow scientist Cornelia Bargmann. He also has two sons, Adam and Jonathan. The couple live in New York.
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