Taking tiny samples of tongue tissue from human volunteers, the researchers first adapted existing techniques to demonstrate that the human taste cells indeed can regenerate in culture.
They went on to show that the new taste cells were functional, maintaining key molecular and physiological properties characteristic of the parent cells. For example, the new cells also were activated by sweet and bitter taste molecules.
"By producing new taste cells outside the body, our results demonstrate that direct stimulation from nerves is not necessary to generate functional taste cells from precursors," said Ozdener.
The establishment of a feasible long-term taste cell culture model opens a range of opportunities to increase understanding of the sense of taste.
"Results from these cells are more likely to translate to the clinic than those obtained from other species or from systems not derived from taste tissue," said Rawson.
The cells also can be used to screen and identify molecules that activate the taste receptors; one such example might be a salt replacer or enhancer.
"The model will help scientists identify new approaches to design and establish cell culture models for other human cells that previously had resisted viable culture conditions," said Ozdener
|Contact: Leslie Stein|
Monell Chemical Senses Center