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Medicine Science

You Have Taste Receptors In Your Lungs 223

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-the-rest-of-us,-just-you dept.
timothy points out news of a study from the University of Maryland's School of Medicine that found bitter taste receptors on the smooth muscle lining airways in the lungs (abstract in Nature). Quoting: "The taste receptors in the lungs are the same as those on the tongue. The tongue’s receptors are clustered in taste buds, which send signals to the brain. The researchers say that in the lung, the taste receptors are not clustered in buds and do not send signals to the brain, yet they respond to substances that have a bitter taste. ... 'I initially thought the bitter-taste receptors in the lungs would prompt a "fight or flight" response to a noxious inhalant, causing chest tightness and coughing so you would leave the toxic environment, but that’s not what we found,' says Dr. Liggett. ... 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. They all opened the airway more extensively than any known drug that we have for treatment of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).'"
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You Have Taste Receptors In Your Lungs

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  • Cynical Me (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Bob9113 (14996) on Monday October 25, 2010 @11:12PM (#34021136) Homepage

    'It turns out that the bitter compounds worked the opposite way from what we thought. They all opened the airway more extensively than any known drug that we have for treatment of asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).'

    Expect anything bitter and volatile to be classified as a controlled substance that can only be distributed on the condition that a pile of money is given to one of the major campaign contributing drug companies. You see, they need the money so they can continue doing life-saving research into finding new boner drugs and sleeping pills that they can convince us we need.

  • Coffee (Score:5, Interesting)

    by xaoslaad (590527) on Monday October 25, 2010 @11:18PM (#34021180)
    Any chance this is why the coffee for asthma remedy is supposedly effective? Perhaps inhaling the vapors for a bitter fluid are doing just what they described here?
  • by PinkyGigglebrain (730753) on Monday October 25, 2010 @11:19PM (#34021188)
    Since it uses a completely different mechanism than current drugs, which relax the bronchial muscles directly, and works better as well, it would not only be safer for children and people in general but vastly cheaper.

    I wonder if this has any bearing on how hot toddy's work?

    _
  • by oRiCN (21089) on Monday October 25, 2010 @11:24PM (#34021216) Homepage

    So, All along the Bitrex they put in airdusters has been helping people reach an extra high?

  • by Sebilrazen (870600) <blahsebilrazen@blah.com> on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @12:23AM (#34021484)
    Seems this could be why beer and coffee go so well with smokes, they make it easier to breathe while puffing on that chimney stick.
  • by scapermoya (769847) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @12:24AM (#34021490) Homepage
    I wonder what might be the reasoning behind this system evolving/remaining intact in humans. I can't really think of an exogenous substance that we inhale naturally that would activate such a response and confer an advantage to us. My best guess would be that the natural ligand for these receptors is something that is produced locally in the lungs in scenarios where bronchiodilation is desired (ie sympathetic stimulation). as someone else pointed out, many of the common neuroreceptors are alkaloids, and would probably activate these receptors. From the abstract, it sounds like these receptors are Gq (IP3 and calcium) receptors, which is interesting because the "classic" receptors that dilate the smooth muscle in the lungs are Gs receptors that stimulate increased cAMP. In smooth muscle, more calcium generally leads to stronger, not weaker, contraction. cAMP leads to relaxation, explaining why epinephrine and albuterol have their effects.

    didn't have time to read the whole paper. exam on this stuff tomorrow though, wonder if I can use this on an essay question?

    /med student
  • by solferino (100959) <<hazchem> <at> <gmail.com>> on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @12:44AM (#34021582) Homepage

    The idea that occurred to me while reading the summary is maybe this partially explains the sense of well-being gained from being in a forest or some leafy natural environment.

    As we know, most plants taste bitter - perhaps plants are also releasing bitter tasting gasses which help to open up our lungs.

  • Re:Cynical Me (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SharpFang (651121) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @01:49AM (#34021864) Homepage Journal

    They already control growth of cannabis, which would otherwise be a common weed.

  • by PinkyGigglebrain (730753) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @02:23AM (#34022006)
    No, a naive man would believe the advertising by the Pharmacorps that they only have the best interests of the public at heart.

    I would call your observation accurate and realistic. If they can they will profit from this as much as possible, if they can not they will do everything they can to bury this or ensure that only they can control the distribution channels, which they will then manipulate to either make it impossible to get or cost so much that no one can afford it. Then they will stop distributing it "because there is no demand".

    _
  • by sFurbo (1361249) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @02:33AM (#34022040)
    Genetic drift would tend to remove such features, as there are many more ways for them not to work then there is for them to work. If they aren't useful, the alleles coding for broken variants will not be removed, and in time, there will be more of them then of the alleles coding for the working variants. Unless the alleles coding for the working variants also code for something else which is useful, or something like that (is placed close to important genes, etc.).
  • Re:Cynical Me (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TheEyes (1686556) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @03:56AM (#34022314)

    If the government 'controlled' the growth of cannabis, how come there hasn't been a reduction in availability?

    Right, because the government is too incompetent to even get rid of fucking kudzu.

    Hey, they've done a great job making it more expensive: as an illegal drug its street value is roughly five times what it would be if it were legalized. Gotta keep those cartels in business; without marijuana their annual profit would be about 20-25% lower than it is.

    Support Mexican Cartel violence! Keep Marijuana Illegal! (Paid for by police chiefs far away from the border)

  • Re:Coffee (Score:2, Interesting)

    by flows (1075083) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @04:02AM (#34022334)

    Any chance this is why the coffee for asthma remedy is supposedly effective? Perhaps inhaling the vapors for a bitter fluid are doing just what they described here?

    My thoughts exactly! As an asthmatic, I have found myself often alleviated by coffee. My assumption was that either the warmth or maybe even the caffeine was responsible.

    Can it be why just the smell of coffee makes me feel better?

    I'm surely paying more attention in the future. *Goes get more coffee*

  • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @05:47AM (#34022690) Homepage

    AM I being a naive old man watching people complain about companies who save millions of people's lives and improves the lives of millions of others evert day, and all they take in return is paper with patterns painted on it.

    Seriously, I spend more on coffee than Singulair, but the later is by any definition, a miracle drug.

    Grow up. If you don't like them making all that money off the hard working backs of all those poor people you pretend to know, BUY SHARES.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @06:15AM (#34022798)

    Wake up and smell the coffee!

  • by FatdogHaiku (978357) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @06:37AM (#34022918)
    Well, anyone with an SVN (small volume nebulizer) could test this at home... two issues would be remembering that sour != bitter and selecting a safe bitter testing substance.

    Tonic water contains a small amount of quinine, which is considered bitter. That might be an interesting development, Schweppes for COPD.

    Of course I'm not suggesting that anyone with a health issue such as COPD should undertake such home tests. If, as you suggest, other countries found effective therapies, it would be hard to stop the many home SVN owners from following up if the substance was common...
  • by drinkypoo (153816) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @06:45AM (#34022960) Homepage Journal

    While you are correct, it might also be so simple that you can whip up an herbal extract and put it in an atomizer. I suspect that a water-based extract of some bitter herb is all that is necessary, plus perhaps a tiny smidge of citric acid or alcohol for freshness (don't get carried away, kids!)

    The expensiveness and homicidal dreams of anti-malaria medication don't prevent a tea made from olive leaves from curing malaria. Fucking Pliny knew about this if that helps you understand how old it is, yet today we're using harmful bullshit to treat it instead.

  • by Stile 65 (722451) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @06:54AM (#34023034) Homepage Journal

    The abstract says that saccharin was tested. That's a very easy to get substance.

  • Re:Coffee (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hitnrunrambler (1401521) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @07:59AM (#34023514)

    The primary effectiveness of coffee comes from the stimulant properties of caffeine (take a couple of shots from an inhaler in close proximity with coffee and you'll notice that the stimulant effects of both compound for an unpleasant jittery effect).

    HOWEVER the bitter vapors may very well increase the effectiveness.

    I'm not surprised by this at all, based on decades of experience with bronchial problems.

    Things I've noticed:
    Cinnamon tends to have a soothing effect; particularly a "tea" of cinnamon with a shot of whiskey for good measure

    hanging my head over a steaming bowl of water seems to help, tossing in fragrant spices seems to help more

    Certain things do create a "content based sensation" in the lungs when inhaled; fragrant steams and inhalers themselves come to mind. (I've always had the weirdest feeling of being able to taste cold air, when it gets down a little below freezing I experience a smoky sensation that doesn't seem to come from anywhere in particular)

  • by mysidia (191772) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @08:17AM (#34023676)

    While you are correct, it might also be so simple that you can whip up an herbal extract and put it in an atomizer. I suspect that a water-based extract of some bitter herb is all that is necessary

    Yes... if people self-medicate, at their own risk, some people could try that.

    Their doctor/health care professional, however, would be taking so huge a legal risk to recommend or order use of a product as a medication not FDA approved for that usage, they would probably not do that

    Without someone running clinical trials, there are many unknowns.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @08:35AM (#34023880) Journal

    Their doctor/health care professional, however, would be taking so huge a legal risk to recommend or order use of a product as a medication not FDA approved for that usage, they would probably not do that

    That's nonsense, it happens all the time. One example, Propranolol is a beta blocker originally indicated as a heart medication. It's quite effective and very safe. It's never been approved for treating anxiety, but doctors hand it out like candy to musicians and performers to handle stage fright. There's nothing illegal about a doctor prescribing an approved drug for an off-label indication.

  • by JeffSpudrinski (1310127) on Tuesday October 26, 2010 @10:05AM (#34025046)

    "Singulair side effects include...other side effects such as agitation, aggression, anxiousness, dream abnormalities and hallucinations, depression, irritability, restlessness and tremor"

    Sounds like the same side effects of the coffee he referred to.

    -JJS

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