22 Sept 2008
See Appendix A for references .
The genetic coding and physical structures of the five general tastes have been worked out after boundary-breaking work by Dr Charles Zuker of the University of California .
There is one receptor apiece for sweet , sour , salt , savoury(umami) ,
but 30 receptors for bitter (as to be expected for poisons) .
Furthermore , all receptors are found on each papilla . The concentration of tastes on various sectors of the tongue is plain wrong .
This is not theory .
There is also strong evidence of pre-synaptic cells between these receptor-cells .
Ie , there is a neural-network active . It would be extremely surprising if there was not one . Much later retinas have very sophisticated neural-networks .
This is an unexpected finding .
Each receptor is mediated (ie enhanced , slightly altered or decreased ) by some simple compounds . They do not activate the receptor , but alter the activation intensity of the receptor . Reminiscent of epigenetic switches .
Some make sugar taste sweeter , some block bitterness , some enhance salty , etc .
The company Senomyx has some 500 000+ of these on library .
Some are already in production (Nestle : savoury enhancers)
These enhancers need only be present in such low concentrations that they fall under the FDA Food Additive radar ( an industry self-policing policy called GRAS is used to judge safety . The foxes are guarding the chickens . This industry is worth billions)
What to expect:
Expect sugar-enhancers (one molecule of sucrose will taste like 5 or 10) .
Less sugar .
Also artificial sweetener enhancers (a sucralose-enhancer is already available)
Salt-enhancers (hopefully decreasing salt intake , by making a little salt taste much saltier . But , knowing the perversity of these systems , an enormous taste for very salty-tasting products will develop among some patients , which could have very bad consequences if the enhancer is not available .
Sour enhancers similar to salt-enhancers as far as tooth decay of children’s sweets .
Acidic drinks like Coke .
Already in production .
Layers of sawdust glued together with the proper enhancers and a bit of flavourants will be indistinguishable from the finest steak .
The biggest danger .
Things taste bitter for a reason : namely , they are poisonous
That is why there are 30 receptors for bitter .
Fine for medicines .
But some idiot is sure to splice some bitter-blocker genes into foods that are poisonous (eg soy , cassava , cocoa , coffee ,etc)
The large number of receptors for bitter points to an extreme plasticity in taste receptors .
Remember , plants have been in state of war with herbivores for literally hundreds of millions of years . Plants are continually evolving new poisons and deterrents , and herbivores evolving counters and avoidances .
The genetic machinery of the taste-receptors must be
a) susceptible to genetic transfer (reproduction-line?) transmittable via licking from the mother .
b) have an immune system integration (!) . Really important .
Danielle Reed (and colleagues) at the Monell Chemical Senses Center
in Philadelphia , Pennsylvania , have engineered mice that has a receptor for calcium and magnesium .
What is worrisome is that she goes on to state : “ I can taste calcium chloride , but I don’t have a word for it .” (NewScientist , 30 Aug 2008 , p23)
She most probably got that from bio-contamination .
Gene-expression on her tongue from the gene-engineering process .
See (a) and (b) above . Does her kissing partners also have this ? Children ?
How contagious is this ?
This might be a completely alternate pathway for gene-engineering .
We might already be experiencing it through fusion-cooking .
Pathogenic paths will be especially noticed , like eating disorders .
If everything tastes like shit , but your brain has not developed the conscious recognition for it , would you feel like eating ?
It might be exactly an epidemic . Contagious .
But what about oenology ?
If the taste receptors to appreciate wines are actually transmitted via an oral-contact route , you have a typical self-referencing system that can get converts .
What a clique ! . They will be traceable back to the first wine .
It makes perfect evolutionary sense , since the taste-system is the origin of the smell system (flu ,etc) . This is the very first contact between the outside and the body at molecular level , happening trillions of times a day .
First Contact Protocols.
Notice that Taste and Smell can be described as an AI(1) system , using the immune system as an external memory .
I leave the interface , packing/unpacking to the reader .
Hint : the taste of blood always come first to anything that feeds .
We will soon be able to make enhancers that create hypertastes : perfect tastes . The best that the receptor can possibly taste .
Like HyperImages .
Also , literally hundreds of thousands of tastes for which we have no names .
Completely new languages will have to be invented .
The immune system will have interesting times .
These is possible , as the receptors are similar as they derive from similar evolutionary roots .
This has already happened .
It is called the vomenerosal organ . Pheromones . Still active , but became zombies because of an evolutionary overdose .
And so it goes .
“Scientific American” , Aug 2008 , “Magnifying Taste” , p76
“New Scientist” . 30 Aug 2008 , “Taste tester cells discover intense flavour boosters” , p22
“The Receptors and Cells for Mammalian Taste” by C. Zuker et al , “Nature” ,
vol 444 , p284-294 , Nov 16 2006