How the Tongue Keeps Its Tastes Straight
New research at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) has revealed how special molecules help the tongue communicate with the brain to identify the correct taste. Using this knowledge, scientists were able rewire the taste-system of mice to perceive sweet stimuli as bitter tastes, and vice versa. The discovery provides new insights into how the tongue keeps its sense of taste organized despite the rapid turnover of the cells in its taste buds.
“All of the tastes we experience are a combination of some or all of the five basic taste qualities, so there’s little room for error,” said study leader Charles S. Zuker, PhD, professor of biochemistry and molecular biophysics and of neuroscience and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator at CUMC, and principal investigator at Columbia’s Zuckerman Institute. “An organism’s survival can depend on its ability to distinguish attractive tastes like sweet from aversive ones like sour and bitter.”
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