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Alzheimer's protein 'regulates taste'

Alzheimer's protein 'regulates taste'
7th March 2013

A team of scientists have discovered a protein known to be integral in the development of Alzheimer's disease is also responsible for controlling taste.

Working in collaboration with researchers from the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Dr Philippe Marambaud first discovered calcium homeostasis modulator 1 (CALHM1) in 2008 and observed it has an important role in controlling the level of amyloid-beta plaques that form in the brain.

These are toxic substances that are known to cause Alzheimer's disease, so Dr Marambaud continued his investigations to see if removing the CALHM1 gene could reduce the risk of developing the condition.

However, in mice bred not to carry the gene, Dr Marambaud and his team discovered these animals had severely impaired responses to sweet, bitter and umami - a savoury taste present in shellfish, cured meats and some vegetables - products.

"While studying the role of CALHM1 in the context of Alzheimer's disease, we realised that this protein also plays a fundamental role in normal physiology," he stated.

Further studies are planned to see if a deteriorating sense of taste can be used as an indicator a person is at risk of developing Alzheimer's.

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