Take a look at a living taste bud. The green objects are the taste receptor cells, red indicates blood vessels and blue is the collagen structure surrounding the bud. This is one of more than 2,000 taste buds scattered across the top of the tongue.
This 3-D rendering was part of a study at Harvard, the Australian National University and South Korea’s Sungkyunkwan University in which scientists captured the process of taste sensation live. In doing so, they provided more proof that the idea the tongue is broken into separate regions that sense salty, sour, sweet, bitter and umami is a myth.
They were able to watch taste reception by shining an infrared laser on a living mouse’s tongue and recording with a two-photon microscope what happened when they dripped sweet-tasting saccharin and acesulfame K or salt onto the buds. Each bud activated when exposed to both salty and sweet substances.
“With this new imaging tool we have shown that each taste bud contains taste cells for different tastes,” said Harvard Medical School’s Seok-Hyun Yun. Learn more and see photos below.