Taurine, or 2-aminoethanesulfonic acid, is an organic compound that is widely distributed in animal tissues. It is a major constituent of bile and can be found in the large intestine, accounting for up to 0.1% of the total human body weight. Taurine is named after the Latin Taurus, which means bull or ox, as it was first isolated from ox bile in 1827 by German Scientists. Having many biological roles, it finds its significance in several nutritional and medicinal applications. It is most famous for being a common additive to energy drinks.
Synthetic taurine is obtained by the ammonolysis of isethionic acid (2-hydroxyethanesulfonic acid), which in turn is obtained from the reaction of ethylene oxide with aqueous sodium bisulfite. In 1993, about 5000-6000 tons of taurine were produced for commercial purposes; as of 2010, China has more than 40 manufacturers of taurine.
Biologically, taurine is derived from cysteine through enzymatic conversion in the pancreas. Cysteine is first oxidized to sulfinic acid, then decarboxylated to form hypotaurine before being oxidized into taurine.
Taurine has many biological roles, such as conjugation of bile acids, antioxidation, osmoregulation, membrane stabilization, and modulation of calcium signaling. It is also essential for cardiovascular function, and development and function of skeletal muscle, the retina, and the central nervous system. As such, taurine is often added to food and medicinal products to aid in health issues.
In addition, Taurine is a common additive to energy drinks, which is hypothesised to improve athletic performance. Taurine is also added into cat food as cats lack the enzyme necessary to produce taurine and thus can only acquire it from their diet.
Lastly, Taurine has been found to have antifibrotic properties and thus it has been introduced to cosmetics and contact lens solutions.