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Anat Rec. 1998 Jun;253(3):70-8.

Biology of taste buds and the clinical problem of taste loss.

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University of Colorado Health Sciences Center, USA.


Taste buds are the anatomical structures that mediate the sense of taste. They comprise taste cells and nerve fibers within specialized epithelial structures. Taste cells are traditionally described by histologic methods as basal, dark, intermediate, and light cells, with the nerve fibers surrounding and infiltrating the taste buds. By means of immunohistochemical methods, taste cells and gustatory nerve fibers can be classified in functional groups based on the expression of various cell adhesion molecules and other proteins. When taste buds become damaged, the loss of the ability to taste results. This loss is not uncommon and can impact health and quality of life. Patients who receive radiation therapy for head and neck cancer often experience taste loss, which leads to compromised nutritional intake and a worse outcome than patients who do not experience taste loss. The mode of radiation damage to taste cells and nerve fibers has been investigated using cell adhesion molecules, synaptic vesicle proteins, and other cell markers. The light and intermediate cells are preferentially affected by ionizing radiation, whereas the nerve fibers remain structurally intact. Experimental studies of radiation-induced taste loss are performed via a unique animal/human model.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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