Staying open to all kinds of experiences

Research is an extension of your curiosity and the pleasure of learning.
Pursuing the unknown sharpens one's mind.

Kurahashi,Takashi

Graduate School of Frontier Biosciences
Physiology Lab

Kurahashi,Takashi

Professor Kurahashi approaches his research into the senses from both physical and chemical standpoints. His work currently focuses on the sense of smell. He has made a breakthrough discovery regarding the breakdown of odors in foods that scientific instruments had not been able to detect.

The appeal of working with the sense of smell: the “fuzzy” sense

Recently, my research has been almost exclusively on the sense of smell. I have approached the issue from both sides; odor prevention and perfuming. Smells are often described using terms such as “something like…” and “reminds me of…”. Among all sensations, the sense of smell is the most diffuse and vague. My research seeks to explain the sense of smell both physically and chemically, and has proven to be a fascinating and enjoyable experience.
My experiments use animals for testing. This is done because the mechanisms of the sense of smell function on the molecular level, so that animal and human subjects can be approached in the same way. Of course, I perform non-invasive research on the sense of smell in humans as well. I compare and contrast the results gained from these various methods in my pursuit of discovering new mechanisms.

kurahashi2

Pinning down the mechanisms of odor deterioration in wine

My research is broad-ranging and crosses many disciplinary and national boundaries. For example, as I need to examine the properties of cells and molecules in my experiments, chemical analysis is required, and so I obtain the assistance of an expert for that work. I work with scent evaluation experts when studying the human world of smells, and this expands my work into the global arena. For example, when researching irregular odors of wine in the lab, I work alongside French and American specialists.
It is often said that about 1 in every 20 bottles of wine has a “poor bouquet”. During manufacture, particulate matter in the cork can sometimes react chemically with the wine, slightly changing the composition of the wine and spoiling it. One reason sommeliers taste a wine before serving is to detect such spoilage.
In my lab, I recorded data on animals’ smell-sensing cells while applying Trichloroanisole (TCA) to them, which is a chemical compound known to spoil the flavor of wine. It turns out that this compound, when introduced in very small amounts, does not create unpleasant odors, but instead prevents the stimulation of the smell-sensing cells. In other words, as we have come to understand, it deadens the subject’s sense of smell.
We found that TCA can actually be found in many kinds of foods, and that it contributes to the deterioration of their aromas. My research going forwards from here will involve narrowing down exactly which foods contain TCA. Through my team’s experimentation, we have been able to get a close look at TCA and the role it plays. I am now looking forward to taking an active part in research that will investigate the mechanisms of aroma deterioration in foods and how to stop it and prevent odors.

Membership of a high-level interdisciplinary research team is no cause for complacency

kurahashi3

In order to succeed in interdisciplinary research, it is important to keep working at self-improvement. It is always vital to put forward your utmost effort when joining a research team. You must not assume that membership of a team will automatically bring you success or acclaim.
I hope that all young researchers have the desire to find new challenges in a world overflowing with information and opportunities. I want them to approach their research in a field of their interest and with a desire to contribute to society, and to keep these thoughts in mind while striving for self-improvement.