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Biography
Dr. Robert I. HenkinDr. Robert I. Henkin is a native Californian, born and raised in Los Angeles. He graduated from the University of Southern California in 1951 with a major in music. After graduation he worked in Hollywood as a composer of music for major motion pictures, radio programs and theatre productions. He continued his education at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) where he was a teaching assistant in the Department of Music and obtained his PhD while continuing his role a Hollywood composer.

His interests soon expanded to include concepts of how music affected emotional responses, and the role the structure of music played in achieving specific emotional responses. During this period he worked in the fields of mathematics, physics, experimental psychology, and physiology. This work culminated in the first successful attempt to define mathematically those factors in music that can be used to achieve specific human responses, and to correlate these factors with specific physiological responses.

These studies led him to attend the medical school at UCLA, from which he was graduated in 1959. During this period Dr. Henkin continued his work in both professional composition of music for various films and theatrical productions and in scientific studies of the roles of sound, hearing and music in human physiology and behavior. He also became interested at this period in the relationship between hormones and the roles they played in controlling sensory process including not only hearing but also taste, smell and vision.

He extended the work of Curt Richter in animals to humans and demonstrated the specific role of adrenal cortical hormones as a controlling factor in taste and smell acuity. After completing an internship in medicine at the UCLA Medical Center in 1960 he undertook a residency in medicine and neurology at The University of Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida, which he completed in 1961.

He then went to Laboratory of Clinical Science of The National Institutes of Mental Health/National Institute of Neurological Diseases as a Research Associate, a program in which a small elite group of leading candidates from the US were chosen to participate in a dedicated research program sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. At termination of this program in 1963 he continued at the NIH as a Senior Investigator in the Clinical Endocrinology Branch of the NIH, headed by Dr. Frederic Bartter, one the world's foremost endocrinologists.

Because of his interests in taste and smell physiology he consulted in various institutes of the NIH and became the primary instructor in taste and smell anatomy, physiology and pathology at the Washington, D.C. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology's (AFIP) course in basic science for residents in the field of Otolaryngology. These lectures expanded into a full course in which basic aspects of taste and smell were discussed.

During this period, because of the unique clinical material available at the NIH, he was able to define the first systematic approach to the clinical classification of taste and smell pathology, defined the basic types of taste and smell loss, defined the pathology in patients without taste buds and described characteristics of taste abnormalities in patients with Type I and Type II familial dysautonomia.

He also was the first to describe taste and smell abnormalities and pathological characteristics in patients with a wide variety of disorders including adrenal cortical insufficiency, hypothyroidism, pseudohypoparathyroidism, Turner's syndrome, hypopituitarism, Cushing's syndrome, Refsum's disease, abetalipoproteinemia, following laryngectomy, in Sjogren's syndrome and in many other abnormalities.

Soon after, he began the first clinical program ever established devoted to the study of patients with taste and smell dysfunction. Patients from all over the world with various dysfunctions of taste and smell came to the NIH for study of these problems. He catalogued patient symptoms and he began the first treatment program in patients with taste and smell dysfunction.

In 1968, the first clinic devoted to the study and treatment of patients with taste and smell dysfunction was established at the NIH. As a result of this work the first patients with taste and smell dysfunction related to altered zinc metabolism were successfully treated and regained their normal function. This work has been the subject of many scientific publications in US and abroad. It also formed the basis of an Annals of Medicine article published in 1977 by Breton Roche in The New Yorker Magazine.

As a result of this work the role of saliva in maintenance of oral cavity health, including taste function, was established. This was accomplished through performance of the first total fractionation and isolation of the major proteins in saliva. This isolation included characterization of the first taste bud growth factor ever discovered which Dr. Henkin named gustin. It was later determined that this growth factor was a zinc containing metalloprotein called carbonic anhydrase (CA) VI which acts on stem cells in taste buds to grow and develop the entire repertoire of cells in the taste bud in a manner similar to the role nerve growth factor (NGF) plays in sympathetic ganglion cells. He discovered that without CAVI the cellular structures of taste buds wither through a process called apoptosis whereas with CAVI cells of the taste buds develop normally. In many patients who lost their taste acuity through various disease processes CAVI synthesis was inhibited; giving these patients zinc stimulated the gene for CAVI, increased CAVI secretion and restored normal taste acuity.

In 1975 the program at NIH moved to the Georgetown University Medical Center. Dr. Henkin became professor of neurology and pediatrics and established The Center for Molecular Nutrition and Sensory Disorders of which the newly established Taste and Smell Clinic of Washington, DC was the clinical arm. As part of this program the first systematic studies of human zinc metabolism were completed and the first compartmental model of human zinc metabolism was established with funding assistance from the NIH. The roles of fiber and aging in human zinc metabolism were also defined. At this time the first systematic studies of human smell dysfunction were undertaken. Smell dysfunction was discovered to be associated with many diseases including sarcoidosis, allergic rhinitis and following surgical removal of the temporal lobe of the brain as treatment for epilepsy. Drugs to treat smell loss in these diseases were discovered and their use corrected losses in some of these patients.  
 
In 1986 The Center and The Clinic moved to the private sector while Dr. Henkin continued research at both NIH and the Georgetown University Medical Center. Beginning at this time functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to define smell function on a completely objective basis. The role of nasal mucus in maintenance of nasal cavity health including smell function was established. This was accomplished through performance of the first total fractionation and isolation of the major proteins in nasal mucus. This isolation included the discovery of CAVI in nasal mucus and its role as a growth factor in growth and development of cells in the olfactory epithelium. The role of adenylyl cyclase as a growth factor which acted on stem cells in the olfactory epithelium similar to CAVI action in both taste buds and olfactory epithelium was also discovered. The role of theophylline in the treatment of loss of smell acuity through its action on cAMP was discovered. Studies of taste and smell distortions were undertaken with discovery that gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA), the endogenous brain inhibitory neurotransmitter, played a key role in controlling taste and smell distortions and that drugs which enhanced GABA function inhibited these distortions. These studies led to discovery of the role brain plasticity and dysplasticity played in initiating symptoms of both taste and smell distortions and oral and nasal burning and to discovery of drugs which inhibited these sensations. The relationships between taste and smell distortion, sensory auras and seizure disorders (epilepsy) were discovered and new drugs and procedures were developed to treat some of these problems.

At present The Center and The Clinic, through a commercial program, Sialon, is expanding the role of these endeavors in research, clinical practice and the market place to benefit the lives of the 19 million people in the US who suffer with some aspect of taste and smell dysfunction.


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