Taste plays a central role in clinical medicine and is crucial for pediatric patients because the unpleasant taste of drugs thwarts the benefits of even the most powerful drug. For two reasons, pediatric medications are particularly problematic. First, children often cannot or will not swallow pills or tablets (which encapsulates the inherently bitter tasting medications). Second, their enhanced (relative to adults) sensitivity to bitterness leads them to strongly reject bitter liquid medicines. We propose experimental studies applying recent scientific advances in bitter taste biology which have identified compounds that may interfere with bitter perception by taste receptor cells, to determine: (1) the effectiveness of these bitter blockers in children and adults for different model bitter compounds and (2) how age and genetic variation affects the efficacy of the bitter blockers.

Public Health Relevance

Completion of this research project will lead to a better understanding of the how to ameliorate bitter tastes. It addresses a public health priority by 1) supporting efforts aimed at formulating better tasting pediatric medications, thus helping children avoid the serious health consequences from refusing to take medications;and 2) providing a framework and database using appropriate psychophysical testing procedures, model bitter compounds and currently identified bitter blockers, which will facilitate future clinical studies in which specific drugs can be compared and novel bitter blockers can be evaluated.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
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Somatosensory and Chemosensory Systems Study Section (SCS)
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Sullivan, Susan L
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Monell Chemical Senses Center
United States
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Spector, Alan C; le Roux, Carel W; Munger, Steven D et al. (2017) Proceedings of the 2015 ASPEN Research Workshop-Taste Signaling. JPEN J Parenter Enteral Nutr 41:113-124
Lipchock, Sarah V; Spielman, Andrew I; Mennella, Julie A et al. (2017) Caffeine Bitterness is Related to Daily Caffeine Intake and Bitter Receptor mRNA Abundance in Human Taste Tissue. Perception 46:245-256
Mennella, Julie A; Mathew, Phoebe S; Lowenthal, Elizabeth D (2017) Use of Adult Sensory Panel to Study Individual Differences in the Palatability of a Pediatric HIV Treatment Drug. Clin Ther 39:2038-2048
Mennella, Julie A; Bobowski, Nuala K (2016) Psychophysical Tracking Method to Measure Taste Preferences in Children and Adults. J Vis Exp :
Bobowski, Nuala; Reed, Danielle R; Mennella, Julie A (2016) Variation in the TAS2R31 bitter taste receptor gene relates to liking for the nonnutritive sweetener Acesulfame-K among children and adults. Sci Rep 6:39135
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Joseph, Paule Valery; Reed, Danielle R; Mennella, Julie A (2016) Individual Differences Among Children in Sucrose Detection Thresholds: Relationship With Age, Gender, and Bitter Taste Genotype. Nurs Res 65:3-12
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