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Taste isn’t just for taste buds

Posted Dec 21 2011 11:56am

Tom Finger and Sue Kinnamon are Faculty Members in the Sensory Systems Section. Both based at the University of Colorado Medical School and directors of the Rocky Mountain Taste & Smell Center, their research focusses on the physiology of taste transduction. Surprisingly, they’ve recently discovered that taste cells are not just limited to taste buds, but also occur in other parts of the body, such as the nasal cavity, the stomach and even the intestines.

Finger and Kinnamon discuss their findings in a F1000 Biology Report , as well as in an article published in the latest edition of The Scientist magazine. They speculate on the different roles that these taste receptors could play:

Despite the similarities in receptor molecules and signaling cascades, … these seemingly misplaced taste-like pathways do not, however, give rise to sensations of taste, though they appear to detect compounds known to elicit a taste response in the mouth.

So, the taste transduction cascade is not restricted to the sensation of taste per se or even to systems regulating food intake. In fact, it’s widely thought that the receptors mediating taste transduction are a chemodetection system in a variety of organ systems. In the gut for example, sweet sensations could trigger the release of insulin, while bitter sensations in the colon could elicit the secretion of anions, leading to fluid secretion into the intestine, in turn resulting in diarrhea.

In the video below, Sue Kinnamon talks to editorial director Kathleen Wets at the Society for Neuroscience 2011, about her and Tom’s research

Our editor-in-chief, Sarah Greene, also caught up with Tom Finger at SFN, and below he tells us about the research relevant to his work that has caught his interest.

Read Finger and Kinnamon’s F1000 Biology Report .

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