Yale Professors Elected to National Academy of Sciences

Two Yale School of Medicine professors, Linda Bartoshuk, who studies taste receptors, and Arthur Horwich, M.D., who studies protein folding in the cell, are among new members elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Election to membership in the academy is considered one of the highest honors that can be accorded a U.S. scientist or engineer. The academy elected 72 new members and 18 foreign associates from 11 countries during its annual meeting April 29.

Bartoshuk, a professor of surgery and psychology, studies the genetic variation in taste perception, oral pain and clinical anomalies of taste and, based on her research, classifies people into nontasters, medium tasters and supertasters.

She and her collaborators recently published a study that shows differences in sense of taste have such an influence on individual diets that they may help determine the diseases to which persons might be susceptible. Supertasters tend to avoid very sweet, high fat foods, but also generally avoid vegetables, which Bartoshuk said might put them at higher risk for colon cancer.

Horwich, an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and a genetics professor, has been pursuing studies on the mechanism of action of molecular chaperones in assisting protein folding in the cell. His work was particularly focused on the role of ring assemblies called chaperonins in mediating ATP-dependent folding of proteins to their native forms. He has also more recently been studying a ring system that mediates protein unfolding, and has been studying the mechanism of protein misfolding that results in the formation of amyloids, fibrillar structures formed in a class of neurodegenerative diseases that includes Alzheimer’s disease.

The National Academy of Sciences is a private organization of scientists and engineers. It was established in 1863 to act as an official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology.

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