An interesting study of human brain cells highlights the crucial role the amino acid taurine has on the development of our brains. This amino acid is vital for optimal development of newborn and infant brains.

Taurine is an important inhibitory neurotransmitter. It’s essential for our cardiovascular function, and the development and function of our central nervous system. Every human needs taurine, adults and babies. Adults metabolize taurine from cysteine, using vitamin B6. High levels of B6 are found in shellfish, such as oysters and clams. It’s also present in meat and fish proteins.

Newborns get their taurine from breast milk, and taurine has been added to many infant formulas.

The role of taurine for optimal brain development has been studied in animal trials. Taurine increases the proliferation of neural stem cells in embryonic and adult rodent brains. But what about humans?

Researchers Hernández-Benítez R, Vangipuram SD, et al, from the Instituto de Fisiología Celular, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico City, Mexico, developed a study of taurine’s effect on cell numbers in human neural precursor cells, which are stem cells.

Neural precursor cells can become neurons (nerve cells), and can also become the two other main cell types in the nervous system. They can also be cultured in the laboratory, so have great potential for a variety of transplant treatments.

Effect of Taurine on human brain development

The researchers in this human cell study used neural precursor cells from three fetal brains (14-15 weeks of gestation). The cells were cultured, and then tested with taurine. After four days of culture, taurine induced an impressive increase of neural precursor cells: an increase of up to 188%. Taurine also dramatically increased the percentage of neurons formed: up to 480% in the best case.

These results show the positive effect taurine has on the formation and development of the brain.