According to researchers at the University of Maryland, there are bitter taste receptors not only located in the mouth, but in the lungs. This discovery is a big breakthrough for treatment of asthma and other obstructive lung diseases.
“The detection of functioning taste receptors on smooth muscle of the bronchus in the lungs was so unexpected that we were at first quite skeptical ourselves,” says the study’s senior author, Stephen B. Liggett, M.D., professor of medicine and physiology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of its Cardiopulmonary Genomics Program.
According to Dr. Liggett, a pulmonologist, he discovered the taste receptors in the lungs by accident during a study of human lung muscle receptors.
While the tongue's receptors are clustered in taste buds and send signals to the brain, the lung's receptors are not clusters and do not send signals to the brain; however, they do respond to bitter substances.
According to this article
The researchers tested a few standard bitter substances known to activate these receptors. “It turns out that the bitter compounds worked the opposite way from what we thought,” says Dr. Liggett. “They all opened the airway more extensively than any known drug that we have for treatment of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).” Dr. Liggett says this observation could have implications for new therapies. “New drugs to treat asthma, emphysema or chronic bronchitis are needed,” he says. “This could replace or enhance what is now in use, and represents a completely new approach.”
This discovery could be one step closer to helping the millions of people world-wide that suffer from asthma and COPD.