If you look in the mirror and poke out your tongue you’ll see it’s covered with tiny little bumps. These are lingual papillae, housing the tiny taste buds that enable you to enjoy your food. This image shows a close-up of one of the taste papillae on a mouse’s tongue, stained with fluorescent dyes that highlight DNA (blue) or other molecules (red and green). Researchers have discovered that a molecule called Hedgehog plays an important role in the development of taste papillae as a foetus grows in the womb, as well as keeping them healthy throughout adult life, regenerating every ten days. This explains why some cancer treatments that work by blocking Hedgehog can lead to patients losing their sense of taste. Understanding how this happens could help to improve cancer treatments in the future and also point to ways to help other people whose taste buds don’t function properly.
Written by Kat Arney
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.