Bad Tasting Medicine a Thing of the Past?

While some might consider forcing down terrible-tasting cough syrup a right of passage, this childhood trauma may soon go the way of chicken pox.

Aversive taste is a leading factor in patient noncompliance with many prescribed liquid formulations of antibiotics, resulting in lack of efficacy and emergence of resistant infections. Many potentially useful formulations of medicines and OTC products in liquid, chewable, or rapid-dissolving forms are precluded by their bitter or aversive taste.

Redpoint Bio
is a biotechnology company developing better tasting products for the pharmaceutical, food and beverage industries. The company uses taste blockers and enhancers to make medicines more palatable, and to make prepared foods and beverages better tasting and more healthful.

Taste is the primary sense that humans use to evaluate what they are going to eat and drink. There are five basic taste qualities, three of which – sweet, savory, and salty – are desirable and have evolved so that humans are encouraged to ingest the carbohydrates (sweet), proteins (savory), and minerals (salty) required for good health.

Two of the senses, bitter and sour, are aversive and have evolved to protect humans from ingesting poisonous substances or spoiled foods that could harm us. Many of these bitter flavors are found in medicinal compounds.

Taste is sensed through sensory cells located in the taste buds of the tongue. Each of the five taste quality is sensed by a specific signaling pathway. For example, salty and sour sensing taste cells have ion channels that let tastants (the chemicals that stimulate the sensory cells in a taste bud) into the cells to eventually trigger a nerve impulse that is sensed in the taste centers of the brain as salty or sour.

The signal transduction of sweet, savory and bitter tastes is dependent upon the function of an ion channel, known as TRPM5. Redpoint has discovered compounds that can inhibit or enhance TRPM5 activity.

Transgenic mice that lack TRPM5 channels are unable to taste sweet, savory, or bitter flavors, but are still capable of tasting sour and salty flavors. By controlling the activity of TRPM5, Redpoint intends to mitigate or even abolish unwanted bitter tastes, or enhance desirable sweet and savory flavors.

The company’s TRPM5 inhibitors are currently under development as bitter blockers useful in oral pharmaceutical formulations and in foods with bitter tastes, such as processed soy and cocoa. Several other ion channels, closely related to TRPM5, have recently been discovered that mediate the taste of many spices. Redpoint has launched a Spice Matrix program focusing on these targets.

The direct and precise regulation of taste afforded by Spice Matrix compounds has the potential to provide a level of control over taste never before possible in flavoring systems. Chefs of the future take note – and moms, how about some TRPM5 inhibitor for your child’s broccoli or brussel sprouts?

Taste Enhancers

Through the use of taste enhancers that work on sweet, savory, and salty tastes, Redpoint hopes to make food and beverages better tasting and healthier while reducing the levels of sugar or sodium needed to make food palatable.

A key focus of the company’s development efforts is a sweetness enhancer that can amplify the taste of sugar and high fructose corn syrup, reducing the amount of sweetener required and potentially curtailing the use of oft-disputed artificial additives like Splenda.

For manufacturers, this can both reduce ingredient costs and lower the calorie content of many products like soft drinks. A reduction in sugar consumption can lessen the detrimental health effects associated with excess sugar consumption such as diabetes and obesity.

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