Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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A Bad Taste
16 October 2017

A Bad Taste

Sweet chocolate, salty crackers, sour lemons, bitter coffee and the umami hit of Parmesan cheese: all of these flavours are detected by our taste buds. As well as bringing us a world of delicious flavours from the foods we eat, taste buds play a vital role in helping us to determine whether it’s likely to be good for us or potentially harmful. These images show the taste buds in young mice, stained with a blue fluorescent dye that highlights nerve fibres. The buds on the right with few nerves are from animals lacking a molecule called beta-catenin, which sends signals between cells, while the ones on the left are from an unaffected mouse. Some newly-developed drugs for treating cancer in humans work by blocking beta-catenin signals, so there’s a risk they may affect patients’ taste buds too – something that might potentially be avoided by reactivating the signals in the tongue.

Written by Kat Arney

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