Native Village
Youth and Education news
 December 1, 2010, Volume 3

 Taste Buds in Lungs May Help Asthma
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Researchers have discovered that our lungs have taste buds.  When these taste buds are bombarded with bitter substances, the airways open up and help with breathing. This could mean new hope and new medicines for asthma sufferers.

"It was a surprising discovery," said Dr. Deepak A. Deshpand from the University of Maryland. "And even though [the taste receptors] were there, we were not sure they would translate into any function. We began screening compounds and saw a response."

The lungs' taste receptors differ from taste buds in the mouth because they don't send signals to the brain. But when they are exposed to bitter substances. the lungs put out a protective response.

"They all opened the airway more profoundly than any known drug that we have for the treatment of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease," said Dr. Stephen Liggett. Liggett said that an inhaler with bitter substances could replace or enhance current asthma treatments.

"There needs to be a high concentration of the bitter substance in order for it to work," explained Deshpande. "If you simply eat something bitter, it gets degraded and will not be at a functional concentration."

Asthma affects 23,000,000 people in the U.S.  7,000,000 of these are children. But before any new drugs hit the market, researchers must come up with safe compounds before testing an inhaler on a human."

"Asthma sufferers can certainly be excited," Deshpande said.  "A drug is not going to come out tomorrow or next week. There are basic safety issues, and we need to find out the other affects these compounds might have. But it's a good start."

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