Stephen Pincock for ABC Science Online:
The receptors are the same as those that cluster together as taste-buds on our tongue, Deepak Deshpande from the University of Maryland and colleagues reported in the journal Nature Medicine.
In experiments using human and mouse lung tissue and mice with asthma, they found stimulating these receptors in the lungs with bitter substances decreased airway obstruction.
In fact, co-author of the study, Stephen Liggett, noted that the bronchodilating for this type of therapy was greater than bronchodilatinig effect of any medicine currently on the market for asthma and COPD.
It should be known, however, that taste receptors in other parts of the body other than the tongue will not help YOU taste things better. It more that they are responsive to bitter substances, and the response may help or hinder the treatment of various diseases.
Initially scientists believed the response to lung taste receptors would cause the "flight or fight" response where the lungs would respond to stimuli such as strong smells by causing bronchoconstriction, yet that did not turn out to be the case.
In this regard, these findings and test results came as a complete surprise to scientists doing the research. Likewise this new information is surprising to we asthmatics and COPDers as well, especially if a newer and better asthma therapy is the result.
Sorry, eating bitter foods will not cause bronchodilation. However, scientists believe certain inhaled, bitter aerosolized medication just might some day help open up the lungs.