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Researching the senses: University of Hohenheim among Europe’s top universities

Scents that lead insects by the nose, olfactory cells in the intestines, and the basic principles of the sense of smell are topics that have catapulted Prof. Dr. Breer from the University of Hohenheim into the top ranks of European scientists working on research into the senses. The journal Lab Times has ranked Breer one of the most frequently cited German scientists in European ear, nose and throat research.

Prof. Dr. Heinz Breer dominates European research into the sense of smell. © BioRegioSTERN

According to the current edition of the journal Lab Times, Germany dominates European ear, nose and throat research and Prof. Dr. Heinz Breer, physiologist at the University of Hohenheim, was ranked as one of three most-cited German researchers in the physiology of olfaction. The ranking is based on the number of papers published by researchers over a period of 10 years, and on the number of times the published papers were cited.

Basic research in three thematic areas

Prof. Dr. Breer and his team of researchers at the Institute of Physiology at the University of Hohenheim are carrying out basic research that is highly regarded by many colleagues around the world. Breer and his team focus mainly on the following three areas:

The basic principles of olfaction: the researchers are trying to understand the mechanisms with which olfactory cells in the nose are able to recognize and differentiate the almost unlimited diversity of volatile substances in air that is breathed. The researchers are also extremely interested in how the olfactory cells are connected with the respective brain areas in order to turn information about scent into the perception of smell.

Intestinal olfaction: does the gastrointestinal tract contain olfactory cells? This is another question being dealt with by Breer and his team. The digestive tract needs to know what it is processing. “A steak needs to be processed differently from apples,” said Prof. Dr. Breer who, together with his team, has detected cells in the gastrointestinal wall that seem to be able to recognize food. The Hohenheim researchers are now focusing on the function of these cells.

Insect control: nocturnal insects orient themselves by way of their sense of smell and recognize each other by way of certain pheromones. Breer and his team want to find out how the insects’ sense of smell works. The practical benefit of this research is obvious: “Mosquitoes recognize humans from their smell. Once we know how their sense of smell works, we will be able to manipulate it and potentially also prevent malaria.” In addition, farmers might one day be able to avoid using insecticides by simply leading insects by their noses.

Lab Times ranking

The journal Lab Times based its ranking on the number of papers published by particular scientists between 1998 and 2009 and on the number of times the scientist in question was cited by colleagues. Prof. Dr. Breer and his team from the Institute of Physiology published 97 papers, which were cited by colleagues 2630 times. This places Breer and his team of researchers in third place among German scientists and 14th place among European scientists. 

Further information:

Prof. Dr. Heinz Breer
Institute of Physiology
Tel.: 0711/ 459 23 566
Fax: 0711/ 459 23 726
E-mail: physiologie(at)uni-hohenheim.de

Website address: https://www.gesundheitsindustrie-bw.de/en/article/press-release/researching-the-senses-university-of-hohenheim-among-europe-s-top-universities