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'Taste buds' discovered in lungs could help treat asthma

Manipulating the taste receptors in lungs may lead to new drugs being developed that help open the airways.

A woman prepares to take a puff from an inhaler.
A woman prepares to take a puff from an inhaler.
Image: Clive Gee/PA Archive/Press Association Images

THE DISCOVERY THAT LUNGS have taste receptors could help to develop new treatments for asthma.

A research team from the University of Maryland School of Medicine found that airways in the lungs opened better in response to a bitter taste.

The study’s senior author, Dr Stephen B Liggett, said that the discovery of the taste receptors was such a surprise to the researchers that they were initially quite skeptical, BusinessWeek reports.

The team were conducting unrelated research on muscle receptors in the lungs when they identified the taste buds. The Telegraph reports that the scientists tested bitter substances on both human and mouse airways, and had initially expected the substance to cause a strong coughing reaction.

Liggett said the finding could lead to new drugs for asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema, saying “this could replace or enhance what is now in use, and represents a completely new approach”.

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