New groundbreaking findings in taste, smell and chemical irritation

Sarasota, FL - Smell and taste play essential roles in our daily lives. The chemical senses serve as important warning systems, alerting us to the presence of potentially harmful situations or substances, including gas leaks, smoke, and spoiled food. Flavors and fragrances are also important in determining what foods we eat and the commercial products we use. The pleasures derived from eating are mainly based on the chemical senses. Thousands of Americans experience loss of smell or taste each year resulting from head trauma, sinus disease, normal aging and neurological disorders, such as brain injury, stroke and Alzheimer's disease. By providing a better understanding of the function of chemosensory systems, scientific and biomedical research is leading to improvements in the diagnoses and treatment of smell and taste disorders.

Among those contributing to advancements are members of The Association for Chemoreception Sciences (AChemS), which will be holding its 28th annual meeting in Sarasota, FL, April 26-30, 2006. AChemS consists of more than 800 members from 23 countries who are specialists in the chemical senses, smell, taste, and chemical irritation. In Sarasota, scientists are presenting their latest research findings on topics ranging from molecular biology to the clinical diagnosis and treatment of smell and taste disorders. The 2006 meeting is featuring presentations of new research findings, special symposia, and workshops (see Preliminary Program) sponsored by AChemS, corporations, and the National Institutes of Health. On Wednesday, April 26th, at 10:00 A.M., AChemS members will present an educational outreach program for local elementary and high school students at the GWIZ Science Center. The opening, guest lecture, which will begin at 8:30 pm, will be presented by Dr. John Dowling, from Harvard University. The title is "Fishing for Novel Genes" (see below).

Additionally, there will be eight, special-subject symposia and two workshops. Throughout the five-day meeting there will be over 500 research presentations by AChemS scientists from around the world (for details see Complete List of Abstracts).

Some new findings to be presented at the meeting include (clich the lead in to read more details):

  • What possibly can mutant zebrafish tell us about visual and other behaviors -- Zebrafish exhibit robust light responses after 4 days of development, making them ideal for the genetic analysis of vision. Behavioral tests can uncover visual system mutations that yield totally, partially and color blind fish as well as fish that demonstrate retinal degenerations resembling human diseases. Other behaviors can also be elicited in zebrafish and hold promise for genetic analysis.

  • Special Symposium -- Industry and academic scientists nose to nose (and in impeccable taste) -- Flavor and fragrance scientists perform miracles of sensory delight to sell their bottled magic. But they often have to work by rule of thumb and long experience. Academic scientists have the time to work out the basic science behind the miracle. Bringing practice and theory together benefits both and just makes sense.

  • One source of obesity? Foods taste better to the obese! -- Obese individuals like food more than do individuals of normal weight. The cause is unknown, but helps dispel the myth that the obese just lack willpower.

  • Living in an enriched environment helps produce new neurons and get smarter! – The adult cricket brain keeps producing new neurons throughout life. Sensory and social stimuli enhance neurogenesis while suppression of neurogenesis leads to defects in learning. Results suggest that an enriched environment promotes neurogenesis, which, in turn improves learning and memory.

  • From sweet to heat! One molecule - two perceptions -- Food flavors and the sweetener saccharin activate the transient receptor potential vanilloid subtype 1 (TRPV1) channel Taste trumps smell in taste-odor mixtures -- When tastes and smells are mixed, as they are in most foods, tastes may dominate the flavor. People more accurately identify the tastes of salt and sugar (92% correct) than the smells of rose and vanilla (62% correct) in taste-odor pairs, even when the taste of salt is weakened.

  • Wine and cheese improve with age--Your sense of smell does not -- The ability to detect odors declines with age, leading to nutritional, safety, and quality of life deficits. To investigate the molecular basis of this sensory loss, a high-throughput technique was used to measure gene expression levels in olfactory tissues from young, middle-aged, and old mice with statistical and bioinformatics analyses to identify over-represented functional categories in which changes occurred and temporal patterns of change that may serve as signatures of aging.

  • It's all relative – fat receptor types influence fat preference and the development of obesity -- The sensory identification of fats involves, at least in part, fatty acid effects on potassium channels in taste cells. The sensitivity to fats and with it fat intake seem to be determined by the ratio of fatty acid-sensitive to fatty acid-insensitive potassium channels. The different channels that play these roles have been identified.

  • Obesity's vicious cycle: High fat diets tune down your taste bud's fat sensors -- Eating a high fat diet leads to a peripheral insensitivity to fats both in terms of expression of fat receptors and how taste cells respond to fats. This insensitivity to fats leads to a greater intake of fat in the diet and contributes to and maintains the obese state.

  • Making scents of olfactory neurogenesis -- In the olfactory bulb, the first central relay of olfactory information, newborn neurons are integrated throughout adult life. The addition of new neurons into mature circuits represents another means, in addition to molecular, synaptic or morphological alterations within individual cells, by which the brain can make changes to its own functional circuitry. Indeed, this cell-level renovation is not static or merely restorative; instead, adult neurogenesis constitutes an adaptive response to challenges imposed by an animal's olfactory environment and/or its internal state.

  • Male elephant chemical calling cards contain mirrored chemistry of precise messages -- The exact chemical blend of a pheromone, frontalin, emitted by older male elephants in musth influences both a female elephant's interest in mating and how other surrounding elephants behave. The use of a precise proportion of two mirror image forms is the first mammalian example for specific intra-species chemical signaling.

  • Chemistry unifies the big and small: elephants and bark beetles utilise elements of an identical chemical language -- It never ceases to amaze that the more species differ from one another, the more similar they seem to share in common. Such is the case in the chemical language of elephants and how they use chemistry identical to that used by some bark beetles to convey similar intended messages.

  • As the nose and the brain grows: neurogenesis and olfaction in crustaceans -- In the last decade, scientists have discovered that lobsters, crabs, crayfish and other crustaceans add new neurons to their nervous systems throughout their lives, just as mammals do. Those new neurons aren't added just anywhere, however. They grow specifically in areas that control the sense of smell.

  • The irresistible scent of bile summons migrating salmon and trout home -- Although born in streams, salmon spend most of their lives in the open ocean feeding before returning to their birth-streams to reproduce. While it's been known for decades that salmon recognize home-streams using their sense of smell, the identity of the odors has been a mystery. It is now thought that bile acids, digestive chemicals released by riverine fish, are likely an important part of these odors.

  • Sweet tooth is inherited -- A study of Finnish families revealed that individual differences in liking for extremely sweet solution and for sweet foods are partly genetic

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Fostering chemical senses research and understanding smell and taste in health and disease Click here to download this press release as a Microsoft Word Document.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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