Due to the tremendous improvements of healthcare within the last 200 years, the average human lifespan has doubled since the early 1800s (1). Medical advances in testing, prognosis and treatment have made it possible for individuals to live well past a century, but not without significant health concerns that could limit their quality of life. There is rising interest in expanding an individual’s ‘healthspan’, which refers to “the period of life spent in good health, free from the chronic diseases and disabilities of aging” (2).
As of July 2023, over 16,000 publications containing the words “healthspan” appear on PubMed, with the number of publications growing exponentially in the last ten years. Many authors mention the idea of improving or increasing healthspan within humans and animal models, and while many studies explore potential ways of doing so, very few if any have demonstrated a reproducible, evolutionarily conserved way of increasing or improving healthspan; until recently.
Singh et al. present a novel study that describes and demonstrates how taurine, an amino acid widely used across the human body, has the ability to modulate lifespan and healthspan. Taurine is reported to be “one of the most abundant amino acids in the brain and spinal cord, leukocytes, heart and muscle cells, the retina and indeed almost every tissue throughout the body” (3). It is involved not only in the formation of bile salts, but also is a “broad-spectrum cytoprotective agent, … an organic osmolyte involved in cell volume regulation, … and plays a role in the modulation of intracellular free calcium concentration.”
Taurine has been proven to play a widely important role throughout the human body, but Singh et al. specifically highlight how an excess or deficiency of taurine could alter the health outcomes of middle-aged mice and assess whether taurine’s modulation is evolutionarily conserved in yeast and roundworms. This blog not only discusses the exciting findings from this paper, but also seeks to answer how a single amino acid could impact age-related health outcomes.