A tongue like receptor found in the lung tissue could potentially help in finding better treatment for asthma, a study said.

Researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore have found taste receptors for bitter flavors in the lung tissue. The tongue has responded to bitter substances in asthmatic mice.

"They opened up the bronchi much better than beta-agonists, the standard therapies for asthma," says Stephen Liggett at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, head of the group who made the discovery.

The researchers, who initially thought that receptors would be only in the tongue, soft palate, upper oesophagus and epiglottis. They discovered these taste receptors in the smooth muscle cells that constrict or dilate the airways of the lung after screening for active genes.

The team initially tested bitter compounds on mice. The tests found that the bitter compounds were three times more effective at relaxing the tissue as anti-asthma drugs. But the lead scientist involved in the study cautions that asthma cannot be treated consuming bitter drink or food.

"It would need to be taken in an inhaled form," he says."Bronchodilation is consistent with wanting to get rid of toxins from the lungs," says Paul Breslin of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia. "We need to open passageways to cough easily and to allow contaminated mucus being pushed out to flow well," he says.