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The Boston Globe


Science in Mind

Could a bitter compound give clues about asthma?

For a long time, scientists thought the taste receptors that signal sweet, bitter, or salty were found only in our taste buds. Then, things started to get weird.

Six years ago, researchers found taste receptors in the cells of the gut. Even more bizarre, scientists found them in cells that line the airway, and in the muscles that contract during an asthma attack. Basic scientific research began to suggest that bitter chemicals had potential as an asthma treatment. That is when Ronghua ZhuGe, a University of Massachusetts Medical School microbiologist, began to pay attention.

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