Energy Drink Ingredient’s Surprising Role in Multiple Sclerosis

The amino acid taurine has caught the attention of multiple sclerosis researchers. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. Taurine can be found in many places throughout the body, such as the cardiovascular system where it plays an essential role in heart function, but it also shows up in the central nervous system.

Taurine can be found in many animal-based foods, such as beef, eggs, and dairy products. Interestingly, another place that taurine shows up in significant amounts is in energy drinks, because it is thought to improve athletic performance.

But what about the connection between this amino acid and multiple sclerosis? Researchers at Scripps Research Institute have found evidence that taurine – when combined with multiple sclerosis medications – might make MS drugs work a bit better. The researchers suggest that adding taurine to MS therapy could bring benefits by encouraging remyelination.

In the autoimmune disease of multiple sclerosis, the protective myelin sheath that surrounds nerve cells is attacked by the body’s own immune system. When nerve cells are stripped of myelin, they no longer function properly and symptoms such as numbness, difficulty walking, slurred speech, and vision loss develop. Anything that supports remyelination is beneficial, which is why researchers are so interested in the potential of taurine to make current MS treatments more effective in this regard.

It is particularly promising that taurine is already safely consumed in a variety of ways by humans, so adding it to MS therapy is a low-risk way of hopefully improving outcomes.

Sources

Beyer BA, Fang M, Sadrian B, et al. Metabolomics-based discovery of a metabolite that enhances oligodentrocyte maturation. Nature Chem Bio 2018;14:22-8.

Press release. Taurine lends hand to repair cells damaged in multiple sclerosis. December 7, 2017.

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