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The Art in Science

Product Image On The Tip of Her Tongue

On The Tip of Her Tongue

Charlotte Mistretta, Ph.D., Professor of Dentistry, University of Michigan School of Dentistry

The sense of taste is essential to identify the nutrients that our bodies require. Taste and can also convey intense pleasure during meals. Taste is mediated by taste buds that reside in structures called taste papillae on the tongue. To understand how taste sensitivity develops and is controlled, we study the development of the taste papilla structures that emerge in the embryo. This photograph illustrates large mounded structures, early developing taste papillae (fungiform papillae to be precise) in a tongue organ culture system from a rat embryo. The organ culture is useful because it allows us to watch papilla development in vitro so that molecules can be added or subtracted to understand how papilla formation is regulated.