“Food glorious food”, as the song goes in the film Oliver. What makes it glorious are the many flavour sensations we can enjoy. This is possible because of little lumps and bumps on our tongues called taste papillae (pictured). At their tops sit taste buds, which detect flavours. Over time our taste buds wear out and are replaced. This is made possible by cells (green) of the papillae dividing to restore the buds. Researchers have now found the collection of proteins – known as the Hedeghog pathway – in these cells that work together to make this happen. By blocking the pathway’s activity in mice, they found that the papillae changed shape and taste buds disappeared. When the blockade was removed, the taste buds came back. This helps explain why cancer patients lose their ability to taste when treated with drugs targeting the Hedgehog pathway.
Written by Lux Fatimathas
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