Proteins on the tongue which determine our perception of different tastes (salt, sweet, sour, salty) have now been linked to the plaques in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s Disease, and could “ultimately reveal an important link to health or disease in the brain,” according to research Phillippe Marambaud of the Litwin-Zucker center for Alzheimer’s Disease in Manhasset.
Marambaud first discovered the protein (dubbed CALHM1) in 2008.
“This protein is a critical regulator of perception of taste.In the brain, however, it seems to also control the development of a key molecular structure known as amyloid peptide, a building block involved in senile plaques that clog the brain in Alzheimer’s Disease,” he explained. “That is our main focus, how this protein controls amyloid peptide.”
Scientists have long been aware that the perception of taste is a complex genetic trait that can differ from person to person, regardless of age. The question is now whether a declining sense of taste could somehow signal the onset of the progressive and incurable mind crippling illness. Some now question whether a loss of the sense of smell could also be a sign of Alzheimer’s, although there is currently no evidence to support such a conclusion.
“In fact, it is equally important to proceed cautiously about making such assertions about taste perception,” warned Marambaud about his own study. “We need clear evidence to understand the disease process, although this may give us some new important clues.”