Sweet chocolate, salty crackers, sour lemons, bitter coffee and the umami hit of Parmesan cheese: all of these flavours are detected by our taste buds. As well as bringing us a world of delicious flavours from the foods we eat, taste buds play a vital role in helping us to determine whether it’s likely to be good for us or potentially harmful. These images show the taste buds in young mice, stained with a blue fluorescent dye that highlights nerve fibres. The buds on the right with few nerves are from animals lacking a molecule called beta-catenin, which sends signals between cells, while the ones on the left are from an unaffected mouse. Some newly-developed drugs for treating cancer in humans work by blocking beta-catenin signals, so there’s a risk they may affect patients’ taste buds too – something that might potentially be avoided by reactivating the signals in the tongue.
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.