no more bitter pills to swallow?

Linguagen Corp., a biotechnology firm based in New Jersey, has developed and patented a family of compounds that can block the taste of bitter medicines and foods, New Scientist reported last week. The “bitter blockers” work by blocking the production of a protein called gustducin, which is released by taste-receptor cells in the mouth when they detect a bitter substance. Gustducin sparks a series of reactions that results in a nerve impulse to the brain signaling a bitter taste. The researchers aren’t exactly sure how the blockers work, but think that the compounds bond to the mouth’s bitter-taste receptors, inhibiting gustducin’s release. If Linguagen’s blockers prove to be safe and effective, they could make drugs and bitter-flavored foods such as broccoli and grapefruit more palatable, as well as reduce the huge amounts of fat, salt, and sugar needed to mask the bitter taste of processed foods.

This news brief appeared in the Random Data column of the Boston Globe’s Health/Science section on 3/04/2003.
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