Investigating Taste Rewiring During Chemotherapy Treatment
Many commonly prescribed chemotherapy drugs have adverse side effects that include disruptions in taste. It is reported that 50-80% of cancer patients who receive chemotherapy treatments experience taste alteration in the form of reduced taste sensitivity. distorted taste perception. or even complete loss of taste during treatment1-5. These deficits can persist for months beyond the end of therapy. Indeed. the side effects of chemotherapy on taste is listed as one of the most disturbing elements of treatment. affecting the patient???s ability to eat and drink and maintain healthy nutritional balance4. This can result in loss of appetite. malnutrition. poor recovery. and a reduced quality of life. To date. most research on the mechanisms leading to chemotherapy induced taste dysfunction has focused on the loss and repopulation of Taste Receptor Cells (TRCs) within taste buds. A critical element that is missing in these studies is the role of gustatory sensory neurons in re-establishing functional taste circuits. It is important to note that nerve fiber innervation maintains the TRCs within the taste bud. and that signals originating from both the TRCs and the peripheral fibers work together to maintain the taste bud and the specificity of rewiring6-9. It is not yet known how chemotherapy treatment affects the sensory fibers innervating the taste buds. My lab investigates the connectivity of peripheral taste circuits. and we have developed new tools to visualize gustatory fibers and taste synapses in vivo. Here. we propose to apply these techniques to investigate the process of taste re-wiring after cancer treatment. These experiments will provide new information about the basic processes of taste wiring in normal conditions and how this is disrupted over the course of chemotherapy treatment. This work will also create a platform to screen for therapeutics that could protect taste function during and after cancer treatment by reducing TRC loss or by enhancing rewiring.