Taurine is one of the most abundant free amino acids in the brain. It is well known that taurine protects the brain from further damage after a traumatic event. However, only a few ex vivo studies have looked at the possible role of taurine in the regulation of axon regeneration after injury. Here, we aimed to reveal the possible role for taurine in the modulation of axonal regeneration following a complete spinal cord injury (SCI) using lampreys as an animal model. The brainstem of lampreys contains several individually identifiable descending neurons that differ greatly in their capacity for axonal regeneration after SCI. This offers a convenient model to promote or inhibit axonal regrowth in the same in vivo preparation. First, we carried out high performance liquid chromatography experiments to measure taurine levels in the spinal cord following SCI. Our results revealed a statistically significant increase in taurine levels 4 weeks post-lesion, which suggested that taurine might have a positive effect on axonal regrowth. Based on these results, we decided to apply an acute taurine treatment at the site of injury to study its effect on axon regeneration. Results from these experiments show that an acute taurine treatment enhances axonal regeneration following SCI in lampreys. This offers a novel way to try to promote axon regeneration after nervous system injuries in mammalian models.
Keywords: axon regeneration; lampreys; spinal cord injury; taurine.