Taste receptors found in lungs a discovery that could transform asthma treatment says report
ABC Science Online is reporting that experiments found stimulating the receptors in the lungs with bitter substances decreased airway obstruction.
In a discovery that could transform asthma treatment, US researchers have found our lungs carry receptors for bitter tastes.
The receptors are the same as those that cluster together as taste-buds on our tongue, Deepak Deshpande from the University of Maryland and colleagues reported in the journal Nature Medicine.
In experiments using human and mouse lung tissue and mice with asthma, they found stimulating these receptors in the lungs with bitter substances decreased airway obstruction.
Airway obstruction is a problem in diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which affect some 300 million people worldwide.
“They all opened the airway more extensively than any known drug that we have for treatment of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease,” says co-author Stephen Liggett.
These results came as a surprise to the scientists, who had expected bitter substances to constrict the airways rather than open them.
“I initially thought the bitter-taste receptors in the lungs would prompt a ‘fight or flight’ response to a noxious inhalant, causing chest tightness and coughing so you would leave the toxic environment, but that’s not what we found,” says Liggett.
There are thousands of non-toxic, bitter compounds that are known to activate these receptors, the scientists say. They include natural plant substances and some synthetic agents.
In their experiments, the researchers tested bitter compounds such as quinine and chloroquine that have been used to treat malaria.
But the researchers say that simply eating bitter foods would not help the treatment of asthma.
“Based on our research, we think that the best drugs would be chemical modifications of bitter compounds, which would be aerosolized and then inhaled into the lungs with an inhaler,” Liggett said.