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Artificial nanobioelectronic tongue

blacklight-tonic-quinineArtificial tongue has always been a great challenge, one of the necessary steps to mimic a living organism. Significant efforts have been made to develop artificial taste sensors, referred to as “electronic tongues”, using arrays of synthetic materials, such as polymers, artificial membranes, and semiconductors. Yet, these efforts were not able to cope with the real food containing mutiple different tastes, and recognize a specific taste among the "bouquet" of the others.

Scientists from the Seoul National University thought why not to mimic the function of the real tongue using the real receptor? Or better to say a part of receptor - a specific protein responsible for the recognition of taste. Among five basic tastes they have chosen the most critical one - bitter. Exactly this taste sensation warns us about potential danger of the non-edible or bad food. 

In the article published in Nano Letters, they developed a human taste
receptor protein, hTAS2R38-functionalized carboxylated poly-
pyrrole nanotube (CPNT)-field effect transistor (FET) as a 
nanobioelectronic tongue (nbe-tongue) that displayed human-
like performance with high sensitivity and selectivity. The protein was expressed in E. coli. Among the
 various tastants examined, PAV-CPNT-FET exclusively responded to target bitterness compounds, phenylthiocarbamide (PTC) and propylthiouracil (PROP), with high sensitivity at concentrations as low as 1 fM. However, no significant changes were observed in the AVI-CPNT-FET in response to the target bitter tastants. This nbe-tongue exhibited different bitter-taste perception of compounds containing thiourea (N−CuS) moieties such as PTC, PROP, and antithyroid toxin in vegetables, which corresponded to the haplotype of hTAS2R38 immobilized on CPNTs. This correlation with the type of receptor is very similar to the human taste system. Thus, the artificial taste sensor developed in this study allowed for the efficient detection of target tastants in mixture and real food sample with a human-like performance and high sensitivity. Furthermore, the developed nbe-tongue could be utilized as a substitute for cell-based assays and to better understand the mechanisms of human taste.


Adopted from ACS

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