ULB discovers taste buds forming in oesophagus


Receptors on our taste buds recognise the specific molecules released when food dissolves in saliva and transmit nerve messages about taste to the brain. The ULB was surprised to learn that such taste buds occur not only on the tongue, but also in the oesophagus.

The oesophageal mucosa was only known to contain one cell type, with no others. That, at least until now, was generally believed. But the IRIBHM research institute at ULB's Faculty of Medicine has discovered that taste buds are also located in the oesophagus, albeit in a restricted area. Like their counterparts on the tongue, do they play a role in the recognition of the four elemental tastes (sweet, salty, bitter and sour) or perhaps assist in reflex processes, such as swallowing food? Thus, scientists are still in the dark about their exact function, as well as about how they replace themselves from stem cells. Very important for cancer patients, for example, who have partially lost their taste due to chemotherapy or experience an abnormal taste. Hopefully, science will soon succeed in suppressing those unpleasant secondary effects.