Testicles have taste buds that can detect sweet flavours – and they’re essential for reproduction.
Scientists say that, despite being a long way from the mouth, taste receptors on the testicles and anus can also detect the savory taste of umami – the amino acid in soy sauce.
Researchers had no idea why the body parts had the receptors until they tried to breed mice without them for a study on taste.
Having only one of the proteins means the male mice can still breed, but it turned out that when both of the proteins were missing, the sperm struggled to swim and the testes became malformed.
‘The males are sterile, their sperm count is low, and spermatozoa are not developed properly,’ said researcher Bedrich Mosinger told Business Insider.
Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia have published their findings in the journal Proceedings Of The National Academy of Sciences.
Mosinger also revealed that the drug used to block the taste receptors comes from the same class of drugs used to treat high cholesterol in humans – raising the possibility that pills could be interfering with human fertility.
‘Like much good science, our current findings pose more questions than answers,’ said researcher Robert Margolskee in a statement.
‘We now need to identify the pathways and mechanisms in testes that utilise these taste genes so we can understand how their loss leads to infertility.’
Mosinger and Margolskee also said that the groundbreaking findings could pave the way for new cures for infertilty or even a male birth control pill.