Scientists ’successfully regenerate human taste cells in a dish’

April 7th, 2011 - 6:24 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, April 7 (ANI): After years of futile attempts, researchers from the Monell Center have finally succeeded in regenerating human taste cells in a dish.

They demonstrated that living human taste cells could be maintained in culture for at least seven months.

The achievement would be a valuable tool in learning about the human sense of taste and how it functions in health and disease.

The researchers also expect it would ultimately assist efforts to prevent and treat taste loss or impairment due to infection, radiation, chemotherapy and chemical exposures.

“People who undergo chemotherapy or radiation therapy for oral cancer often lose their sense of taste, leading to decreased interest in food, weight loss, and malnutrition,” said M. Hakan Ozdener, lead author and a cellular biologist at Monell.

“The success of this technique should provide hope for these people, as it finally provides us with a way to test drugs to promote recovery,” he added.

Taste cells are located in papillae, or the little bumps on our tongues. The cells contain receptors that interact with chemicals in foods to allow us to distinguish between sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and umami.

They are also among the few cells in the body that have the ability to regenerate, with new taste cells generally maturing from progenitor ’stem’ cells every 10-14 days.

Scientists have long believed that it was necessary for taste cells to be attached to nerves in order to function properly and regenerate.

For this reason, scientists thought that it was not possible to isolate and grow these cells in culture.

“It had become ingrained in the collective consciousness that it wouldn’t work,” said Monell cellular biologist Nancy E. Rawson.

To dispel the long-held belief, the Monell scientists first demonstrated in 2006 that taste cells from rats could successfully be maintained in culture.

Afterward, they moved on to experiments with human cells.

By taking samples of tongue tissues from volunteers, the researchers were able to adapt their techniques to grow human taste cells in culture.

They also demonstrated that the new taste cells were functional, with the same key molecular and physiological properties of parent cells.

Like the parent cells, sweet and bitter taste molecules could also activate the new cells.

The study was published in the journal Chemical Senses. (ANI)

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