Monell scientists identify taste stem cells on the tongue – Stem Cell …

Thediscovery of until now elusive taste stem cells on the tongue will help researchers and industry better understand the complexities of human taste, say researchers.

The breakthrough, byresearchers at the Monell Chemical Sciences Center, USA, will help to develop new techniques to grow and manipulate fully functional taste cells for use in research and clinical treatments, say thescientists behind the finding.

Writing in the journal Stem Cells,the Monell team explains that for decades taste scientists have attempted to identify the stem or progenitor cells that spawn the different taste receptor cells. This elusive challenge also sought to establish whether one, or several, progenitors were involved, and where they were located, they said.

Led by senior author Dr Peihua Jiang, the research team said that the identification of the location and certain genetic characteristics of taste stem cells on the tongue will kick-start research that better understands the make-up of human taste, and could someday help treat clinical taste dysfunctions.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, said Jiang. Identification of these cells opens up a whole new area for studying taste cell renewal, and contributes to stem cell biology in general.

Cancer patients who have taste loss following radiation to the head and neck and elderly individuals with diminished taste function are just two populations who could benefit from the ability to activate adult taste stem cells, explained Dr Robert Margolskee, who also worked on the study.

Tasty findings

The team explained that taste cells are located in clusters called taste buds, which in turn are found in papillae, the raised bumps visible on the tongues surface. In these structures, there are two types of taste cells that contain the chemical receptors that initiate perception of sweet, bitter, umami, salty, and sour taste qualities while a third type appears to serve as a supporting cell.

A remarkable characteristic of these sensory cells is that they regularly regenerate, said the researchers. All three taste cell types undergo frequent turnover, with an average lifespan of 10-16 days. As such, new taste cells must constantly be regenerated to replace cells that have died.

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