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Researchers from the University at Buffalo discovered taste bud cells capable of discerning multiple flavors at the same time.
The researchers found that the newly discovered subset of taste bud cells can simultaneously identify four different taste stimuli—sweet, sour, bitter, and umami. According to them, their study challenges the current belief that taste bud cells are highly selective and can recognize only one or two specific types of flavors.
For the study, the researchers conducted an experiment using genetically modified mice. They isolated taste cells from the mice’s tongues and examined how information about taste travels from the tongue to the brain. After isolating the rodents’ taste cells and exposing them to different substances, the researchers noticed a group of cells that could detect multiple flavors.
The team also found that when these newly discovered cells were inactivated, the mice had difficulty identifying bitter, sweet, and umami flavors even when selective taste bud cells were present. This finding suggests that two types of taste bud cells are needed to fully recognize all flavors: one that can sense multiple flavors and another that reacts only to specific flavors.
According to the researchers, the study’s findings imply that taste buds are far more complicated than what scientists originally thought. They added that further experiments will focus on the newly discovered subset of taste bud cells, particularly on how these cells recognize flavors.