Possible Cure for Asthma Found
It has been discovered that the human lungs contain more than a dozen taste receptors which can be found on the mouth. This discovery might help the researchers find a solution to treat asthma, and other similar diseases.
The discovery was made by mistake, as the scientists wanted to analyze the muscles from the lungs which are responsible with the regulation of the airway contraction and relaxation. Researcher Stephen Liggett, a pulmonologist at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of its Cardiopulmonary Genomics Program, stated that the discovery took them by surprise, and that they did not believe that it was real. They were very skeptical at first, but they continued with the experiment.
The researchers found some proteins responsible for tasting bitterness. These receptors are usually clustered in buns when they are on the tongue, but in the lungs they are not arranged in this position. On the tongue, the receptors send signals to the brain, but that does not happen in the case of the lungs. However, the receptors from the lungs are similar to the ones from the tongue, in the sense that they respond when a person consumes something which has a bitter taste. There are 25 known bitter-taste receptors on the tongue, and 17 of them were seen in the lungs as well. They could not find other types of taste receptors there.
Liggett stated that the discovery was very exciting, especially since they did not expect such a thing to happen. They wanted to see what the purpose of these receptors is, so they exposed bitter compounds to human and mouse airways, and to mice which suffered from asthma. In the case of the mice which suffered from asthma, the airways contracted and because of it, the flow of air was stopped. As a result the mice suffered from shortness of breath and from wheezing. What makes this discovery pretty important is the fact that most of the plant-based allergies are bitter, and as a result the scientists could use this in order to stop the effects of the allergies. Liggett stated that at first they believed that the bitter-taste receptors would cause coughing and chest tightness, but they did not.
When the researchers tested some bitter substances against the receptors they realized that they did not had the task of making the chest contract, but on the contrary, that the receptors made the chest to relax. They managed to open the chest more than any other drug which has been so far used for treating asthma. This could lead to lots of possibilities, as the receptors could be used as treatment for asthma. When it comes to treating asthma, the inhalers often contain beta-agonists. They are used in all of the inhalers, and they manage to do their job quite good. However, the receptors from the lungs are three or four times more efficient, as they provided a much greater relaxation for the lungs. Liggett said that at first they believed that they made a mistake; that they damaged the muscle and it relaxed because it was injured or because it was dying.
They realized that the lungs relaxed thanks to the receptors, and the reason or that is that the bacteria used by the scientists contained some bitter substances in it. When one has pneumonia or bronchitis, these receptors could help that person a lot, by relaxing the muscles. As a result that person can clear the mucus and the bacteria associated with the infection. More than 300 million people worldwide are affected by the asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, and it is estimated that the numbers keep on growing.
The American Lung Association stated that more than 25 million people suffer from asthma in the United States of America alone. Almost 10 million of those people are children, and the disease could become worse in time. They also stated that chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is the fourth leading cause of death in the country after heart diseases, cancer, and diabetes. It seems that there are thousands of different types of compounds which are not toxic, and they might be used someday in order to treat the people who suffer from various lung diseases.
Quinine and chloroquine are very bitter and they have been used in order to treat certain diseases such as malaria. They caused the same reaction as many other substances, meaning that the caused the chest to relax. Saccharin had the same effect as well, even though it is not preferred, as it leaves a very bitter taste in the mouth. Liggett said that is extremely important for them to develop new drugs which might aid with treating asthma, bronchitis, and many other similar diseases. These new drugs could be different than the ones which are already on the market but they could be more effective than them.
The drugs which are currently used do not give the patient 100 percent control over the disease, and as a result the illness still affects the person very much. There are more than 10,000 bitter compounds and as a result they might be able to find a new drug which could prove to be effective against asthma and chronic obstructive lung disease. He said that they are currently screening numerous compounds in order to find out which of them might be the most effective. Once they find out those compounds, they will then work on improving them in order to make them even more effective. They will then use them in aerosols in order to see if they are effective when it comes to treating asthma. He stated that asthma will not be treated through the consumption of bitter foods, and that the best way of treating the disease would be to apply some chemical modifications of the substances which contain the bitter compounds. This discovery could prove to be extremely important if they will find a way of putting everything into practice.11