Taurine is an abundant, β-amino acid with diverse cytoprotective activity. In some species, taurine is an essential nutrient but in man it is considered a semi-essential nutrient, although cells lacking taurine show major pathology. These findings have spurred interest in the potential use of taurine as a therapeutic agent. The discovery that taurine is an effective therapy against congestive heart failure led to the study of taurine as a therapeutic agent against other disease conditions. Today, taurine has been approved for the treatment of congestive heart failure in Japan and shows promise in the treatment of several other diseases. The present review summarizes studies supporting a role of taurine in the treatment of diseases of muscle, the central nervous system, and the cardiovascular system. In addition, taurine is extremely effective in the treatment of the mitochondrial disease, mitochondrial encephalopathy, lactic acidosis, and stroke-like episodes (MELAS), and offers a new approach for the treatment of metabolic diseases, such as diabetes, and inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis. The review also addresses the functions of taurine (regulation of antioxidation, energy metabolism, gene expression, ER stress, neuromodulation, quality control and calcium homeostasis) underlying these therapeutic actions.
Keywords: Antioxidation; Cytoprotection; ER stress; MELAS; Neurodegenerative diseases; Taurine.