Tag Archives: nervous system

Amino Acids: Taurine Essential For Brain Development

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.

Sources:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23466467

The Importance of GABA Amino Acid for the Central Nervous System

The human central nervous system is controlled by the brain. The brain’s neurotransmitters and receptor sites are affected either by how inhibited or excited the amino acids GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) and glutamate (glutamic acid) are. Of all the neurotransmitters within the central nervous system, amino acids are considered some of the most plenteous.

Steven M Paul write about “GABA and Glycine” and their role in the central nervous system. Amino acids have been shown in studies, he says, to “support current dogma that the majority of neurons in the mammalian brain utilize either glutamate or g-aminobutyric acid (GABA) as their primary neurotransmitters. [And] … GABA and glutamate serve to regulate the excitability of virtually all neurons in brain and, not surprisingly, therefore have been implicated as important mediators of many critical physiological as well as pathophysiological events that underlie brain function and/or dysfunction.”

There are studies in pharmacology on utilizing drugs that either block or enhance what GABA or glutamate, which according to Steven M Paul, supports that these neurotransmitters “by virtue of their often opposing excitatory and inhibitory actions, control, to a large degree, the overall excitability” of the central nervous system.

What this means, is that drugs (such as for schizophrenia, neurological diseases, or Lou Gehrig’s disease) that inhibit what GABA does may decrease what glutamate may excite, or vice versa. This means there needs to be a balance between inhibition and excitation in the “drugs which are known to alter GABAergic or glutamatergic neurotransmission).”

GABA amino acid is important to the central nervous system and spinal column

In a study done by J Yowtak, J Wang, et al., at the Department of Neuroscience and Cell Biology at the University of Texas, the neuropathic pain model in mice was studied regarding the antioxidant treatment on GABA neurons in the spinal column. The researchers suggested “that oxidative stress impaired some spinal GABA neuron activity in the neuropathic pain condition. Together the data suggest that neuropathic pain, at least partially, is attributed to oxidative stress which induces both a GABA neuron loss and dysfunction of surviving GABA neurons.”

Between the study above and the one spoken of by Steven M Paul, it is likely that all of the updated information on GABA, glutamate, or glycine will hopefully, as Paul states, “result in an even better understanding of their potential role(s) in various neuropsychiatric disorders and in the discovery even more of effective therapeutic agents.”

Certainly our central nervous system is dependent upon GABA and these other amino acids. It is no wonder that they are used in pharmaceutical drugs to enhance and inhibit certain neurotransmitters to help the body function properly.

Reference:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23880056

http://www.acnp.org/g4/gn401000008/