Taste Disorders

Shocking Diseases of the Mouth

What research is being done about taste disorders?

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) supports basic and clinical investigations of smell and taste disorders at its laboratories in Bethesda, Maryland, and at universities and chemosensory research centers across the country. These chemosensory scientists are exploring how to:

  • Prevent the effects of aging on taste and smell.
  • Develop new diagnostic tests.
  • Understand associations between taste disorders and changes in diet and food preferences in the elderly or among people with chronic illnesses.
  • Improve treatment methods and rehabilitation strategies.

Some recent chemosensory research focuses on identifying the key receptors expressed by taste cells and understanding how those receptors send signals to the brain. Researchers are also working to develop a better understanding of how sweet and bitter substances attach to their targeted receptors. This research holds promise for the development of sugar or salt substitutes that could help combat obesity or hypertension, as well as the development of bitter blockers that could make life-saving medicines more acceptable to children. Taste cells -- as well as sensory cells that help you smell -- are the only sensory cells in the human body that are regularly replaced throughout life. Researchers are exploring how and why this happens so that they might find ways to replace other damaged sensory cells.

NIDCD-funded researchers have shown that small variations in our genetic code can raise or lower our sensitivity to sweet tastes, which might influence our desire for sweets. Scientists are also working to find out why some medications and medical procedures can have a harmful effect on our senses of taste and smell. They hope to develop treatments to help restore the sense of taste to people who have lost it.

Scientists are gaining a better understanding of why the same receptor that helps your tongue detect sweet taste can also be found in the human gut. NIDCD-funded scientists have shown that the sweet receptor helps the intestine to sense and absorb sugar and turn up the production of blood sugar-regulation hormones, including the hormone that regulates insulin release. Further research may help scientists develop drugs targeting the gut taste receptors to treat obesity and diabetes.

Where can I find additional information about taste disorders?

The NIDCD maintains a directory of organizations that provide information on the normal and disordered processes of hearing, balance, taste, smell, voice, speech, and language.

For more information, additional addresses and phone numbers, or a printed list of organizations, contact us at:

NIDCD Information Clearinghouse
1 Communication Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20892-3456
Toll-free Voice: (800) 241-1044
Toll-free TTY: (800) 241-1055
Fax: (301) 770-8977
E-mail: nidcdinfo@nidcd.nih.gov


United States. National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD). "Taste Disorders." April 2014. <http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/smelltaste/pages/taste.aspx>.

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