Taking the bite out of bitterness

In order to take a bitter medicine, one needs something sweet, like sugar, to swallow it. This may no longer be the case in the future, thanks to natural compounds that block the taste of bitter substances.

New York-based biotech firm Linguagen has received patent protection for the family of blockers it discovered this January.

“A major food ingredient company is testing them, and a major pharmaceutical company,” chief operating officer Shawn Marcell was quoted as saying by New Scientist.

Robert Margolskee of New York, who founded Linguagen, discovered that reactions that led to a bitterness perception. When taste receptor cells in the mouth detect bitter compounds, such as narin-gin, found in grapefruit, caffeine and the painkiller ibuprofen, gustducin is released, triggering chain reactions in a nerve impulse to the brain saying “bitter.” The blockers really did prevent bitterness being perceived when lab mice could not distinguish a bitter solution doped with the blocker from plain water.


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