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Living taste cells produced outside the body

onths, were similar to mature taste cells in several key respects. A variety of methods were used to show that the cultured cells contain unique marker proteins characteristic of mature functioning taste receptor cells. In addition, functional assays revealed that the cultured cells responded to either bitter or sweet taste stimuli with increases of intracellular calcium, another property characteristic of mature taste cells.

Lead author Hakan Ozdener, MD, PhD, observes, "Although scientists have tried for many years to maintain taste cells in a long-term culture system, it was commonly believed that these cells could not be kept alive for longer than about 10 days. Now, we have demonstrated that taste cells can be generated in vitro and maintained for a prolonged period of time."

The taste cell culture system provides new insight into how basal cells turn into functional taste cells. Although previous dogma had held that induction was somehow dependent on interactions with the nervous system, the current findings suggest otherwise. Ozdener explains, "By producing new taste cells in an in vitro system, our results demonstrate that direct stimulation from nerves is not necessary to generate taste cells from precursors."

By using the cultured taste cells, researchers now have more precise control over the cell's surrounding environment, as well as better access to subcellular mechanisms, allowing them to ask certain questions that could not previously be addressed.

For instance, cultured cells can be used to study how taste stimuli interact to enhance good tastes or suppress unpleasant tastes. Similarly, new molecules, including potential artificial sweeteners or bitter blockers, can be evaluated to see if they interact with taste receptors to activate the cell.

Another important avenue for research aims to help people who have lost their sense of taste from radiation or diseases. Identification of factors that promote tast
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Source:Monell Chemical Senses Center


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