A Japanese study has shown that treatment with taurine can protect against xenobiotics-induced liver damages. Could this lead to a new treatment for cirrhosis and other forms of liver disease?

There are over 100 forms of liver disease, some of which lead to cirrhosis. Cirrhosis, a condition where the liver is permanently damaged by scarring, is the end form of many liver diseases.  The damaged cirrhotic liver can’t remove toxins, which accumulate in the blood and can lead to death. The overall mortality rate for drug-induced liver injury is about 5%.

Some liver diseases, including cirrhosis, are caused by xenobiotics, which are drugs and environmental chemicals. Such drugs can include acetaminophen, a very common pain reliever found in paracetamol. The risk is much higher in illegal drugs synthesized from bromobenzene, such as PCP.

The liver is particularly prone to xenobiotics-induced injury because of its role in filtering and removing toxins.

Can the liver be protected by taurine?

A study by T Miyazaki and Y Matsuzaki, from Tokyo Medical University, Japan, investigated the protective effects of the amino acid taurine.

Taurine has many functions, and is present in most of our tissues. It’s found throughout our bodies, particularly in our central nervous system, skeletal muscle, heart, and liver.

We produce taurine from food, especially foods high in B6, such as seafood. Taurine is biosynthesized in the liver. It has even been shown to prevent liver disease and cirrhosis in rats.

Taurine affects human livers, too. People with liver disease often have low levels of taurine in their hepatic system. And serious liver damages were observed in the pericentral region of the liver in patients with severely depleted liver taurine levels.

The study showed that taurine treatment was a useful agent for xenobiotics-induced liver damages.

The risk for developing xenobiotics-induced injury will be greatly reduced if people ensure they follow all directions on packages, follow guidelines for safe alcohol consumption, and avoid illegal drugs.