Amino Acid Common in Energy Drinks May Boost Potency of Multiple Sclerosis Drugs

Taurine may increase the remyelination effects of multiple sclerosis treatments.

Taurine—an amino acid commonly found in energy drinks and supplements—may increase the efficacy of current multiple sclerosis (MS) treatments, according to a study published by Nature Chemical Biology.

The naturally-occurring amino acid was observed to assist with remyelination, a substantial finding. This discovery was particularly significant because increased demyelination correlates with increased physical and cognitive disability in patients with MS.

"Remission of MS symptoms is dependent on the process of remyelination, so using taurine in combination with an existing MS drug and a future remyelination-inducing treatment may help patients by improving overall efficacy," said co-senior author Luke Lairson, PhD. "This could be something to add to an MS therapeutic regime."

The authors also said that these findings may open up the possibility of metabolomic profiling, a process that can pinpoint endogenous metabolites the body produces that could be translated into novel therapies.

"Metabolomic profiling can offer unique insight into many different diseases, both mechanistically and therapeutically," said co-senior author Gary Siuzdak, PhD.

Although there are no current treatments that can cure MS, several reduce relapses by prompting remyelination. In a previous study, the research team showed that benztropine, a Parkinson’s disease drug, induced oligodendrocyte precursor cells to become myelin-producing oligodendrocytes that can repair MS-related nerve damage.

In the new study, the authors aimed to develop a more effective treatment by increasing the efficacy of existing remyelinating drugs. They examined the potential of endogenous metabolites, which are naturally produced by cells such as sugars, fatty acids, and amino acids.

The authors discovered that endogenous taurine cannot spark oligodendrocyte precursor cell maturation alone but can amplify the efficacy of benztropine or miconazole, suggesting it may be an effective add-on therapy, according to the study.

"Combining taurine with drugs that induce differentiation significantly enhances the process," Dr Lairson said. "You get more myelin."

These findings are encouraging because taurine has been shown to be safe in humans and is commonly used in consumer products. The authors also noted that taurine is used by the brain, according to the study.

"We still need to do tests in rodent models, but this is a good starting point," Dr Lairson said.

Another recent study found that an OTC allergy drug may repair nervous system function in patients with MS. The study showed that clemastine fumarate was able to restore brain function in both animal and human patients.

These studies may suggest that a cure for MS may be in reach, the authors concluded.