A novel model that may be useful to study supertasting has been developed by University of Tennessee Health Science Center and the Monell Chemical Senses Center researchers. The team's work was reported in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
Nosrat's group developed mice whose taste buds overexpress brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a growth factor for neurons and a protein that is important for the distribution of nerves to sensory organs, such as taste buds. These mice had larger taste buds, an increased number of taste cells per taste bud, and a greater supply of nerves in the taste buds compared with the control mice. These features suggest that the mice could be a model for supertasters, whose tongues have an increased number of fungiform taste buds (a specific kind of taste bud on the front and sides of the tongue that detects the five basic tastes).
"By generating the supertaster rodent model," Nosrat reports, "we are able to study the supertasting phenomenon in detail." Furthermore, brain-derived neurotrophic factor is important for proper development of the nervous system, Nosrat explains, and this mouse model can facilitate the development of therapies for nerve injuries in which taste signaling to the brain has been damaged.