Genetic Variation and Sensory Perception of a Pediatric Formulation of Ibuprofen: Can a Medicine Taste Too Good for Some?

Julie A. Mennella, Mengyuan Kan, Elizabeth D. Lowenthal, Luis R. Saraiva, Joel D. Mainland, Blanca E. Himes, M. Yanina Pepino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


There is wide variation in how individuals perceive the chemosensory attributes of liquid formulations of ibuprofen, encompassing both adults and children. To understand personal variation in the taste and chemesthesis properties of this medicine, and how to measure it, our first scientific strategy centered on utilizing trained adult panelists, due to the complex and time-consuming psychophysical tasks needed at this initial stage. We conducted a double-blind cohort study in which panelists underwent whole-genome-wide genotyping and psychophysically evaluated an over-the-counter pediatric medicine containing ibuprofen. Associations between sensory phenotypes and genetic variation near/within irritant and taste receptor genes were determined. Panelists who experienced the urge to cough or throat sensations found the medicine less palatable and sweet, and more irritating. Perceptions varied with genetic ancestry; panelists of African genetic ancestry had fewer chemesthetic sensations, rating the medicine sweeter, less irritating, and more palatable than did those of European genetic ancestry. We discovered a novel association between TRPA1 rs11988795 and tingling sensations, independent of ancestry. We also determined for the first time that just tasting the medicine allowed predictions of perceptions after swallowing, simplifying future psychophysical studies on diverse populations of different age groups needed to understand genetic, cultural–dietary, and epigenetic factors that influence individual perceptions of palatability and, in turn, adherence and the risk of accidental ingestion.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number13050
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • genetic ancestry
  • single nucleotide polymorphisms
  • chemesthesis
  • irritation
  • taste
  • pediatric formulations
  • ibuprofen

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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