Taurine (2016, 2017) Protects the Retina
Learn more about macular degeneration.
Taurine is abundant in the retina, as well as in the brain, heart and reproductive organs. It has anti-inflammatory capacity and is a potent antioxidant. It is the most common amino acid in the fetal brain, and is the second most common amino acid in the adult brain. It is most abundant in those parts of the body which respond to electrical stimulation.1 The retina's role is to electro-chemically transmit information from the world to the brain.
Taurine falls into the category of compounds known as osmolytes. Osmolytes affect osmosis - the ability of solutions in a cell or surrounding fluid to cross into or out of cells. When cells are exposed to ultraviolet radiation the retina responds by accumulating osmolytes.
Researchers were interested to find out whether the osmolyte taurine could protect the ganglion (nerve) cells in the retina from damage by ultraviolet B radiation.
The scientists were able to gauge the amount of cell death under the influence of ultraviolet B radiation by measuring taurine osmolyte changes which occur naturally to protect the retinal cells.
They found that taurine was 'remarkably'able to prevent cell death caused by UVB radiation.
Researchers: W. Dayang, P. Dongbo,
Published: Taurine prevents ultraviolet B induced apoptosis in retinal ganglion cells, Cutaneous and Ocular Toxicology, June, 2017.
This article includes an overview of the data and research on taurine, particular with respect to its neuroendocrine effects. They provide a background on its structure, mechanics of metabolism, effects and therapeutic potential.
They report that taurine has broad anti-inflammatory capacity and has been effective in treating a number of conditions, ranging from heart failure to diabetes, and that it appears to protect against damage from alcohol and a variety of toxins.
The structure of taurine, different from other essential aminio acids, means that it is not tied to proteins but is free-floating within cells and ready and is recognized as a neuromodulator with many roles.
The levels of taurine are greatest in cells that respond to electrical stimulation. This includes the central nervous system, the retina, the heart. It is also found in large quantities in the pineal bland and pituitary gland. It is the second most abundant amino acid in the adult brain.
Taurine is known to help regulate nerve cell activity as an agonist (bio-chemical that causes actions). Little is known about its action on the human sympathetic nervous system (which stimulates the flight or fight response). Its effect on hormonal secretions is also little known.
What is well known, however, is that it is an excellent and potent antioxidant which fights free radicals and protects the brain (and the retina) against oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is now recognized by scientists to be a major cause of most eye disease.2
Healthy elderly patients (older than 61) are found to have up to a 49% decrease in taurine levels compared to younger healthy people. Taurine deficiencies are noted in a wide range of disease of bone, blood, CNS, circulation, heart, digestion, and, of course, the retina.
It may be a preventative for retinal and macular conditions, conditions involving cognitive capacity and other neuro-physical conditions.
Authors: J. Caine, MD, T. Geracioti, MD
Published: Taurine, energy drinks, and neuroendocrine effects, Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, December, 2016.
Taurine deficiency is known to damage photoreceptors, causing retinal ganglion (nerve cell) damage and death. The photoreceptors are comprised of rod and cone cells. The cone cells are responsible for color vision and work best in bright light. This study looked at the results of taurine depletion on two types of cone cells.
The retinas of one group of lab animals with taurine depletion were examined. The researchers found marked reductions in blood levels of taurine associated with strong impairment to visual function. The retinas of the taurine-deficient group were thinner, both types of cone cells were affected; cones detecting blue and blueviolet light were more severely impacted. There was marked retinal ganglion loss in both types of cone cells.
Researchers: W. Hadj-Said, N. Froger, et al,
Investigations in Ophthalmology and Visual Science, September, 2016.
Researchers reported that taurine deficiency contributed to deterioration of the retina and that supplementation with taurine has been somewhat successful in treating and preventing retinal changes.
Published: Alternative Medicine Review, April 1998;
Oftalmol Zh, 1989
Brain Research Reviews, May-August, 1991; Journal of Neuroscience Research, 1987.
1. Taurine, energy drinks and neuroendocrine effects, Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, 2016.
2. See Antixodants and Eye Disease.