Taurine (or tauric acid) is a derivate of the amino acid, cysteine. It is an organic acid, but unlike many of its biological organic acid counterparts it contains sulfonyl hydroxide instead of the carboxyl group as part of its chemical makeup. Due to its specific carboxyl group deficiency and subsequent lack of incorporation with proteins, taurine cannot be considered an amino acid despite it being an acid and containing an amino group. Occurring naturally in meat, fish and shellfish and being able to be produced internally by humans through certain amino acid breakdowns, taurine is a vital component to many physiological functions within the body such as membrane stabilization, antioxidation and the conjugation of bile acids. Interestingly, about one tenth of a percent of our body’s weight contains taurine, which relatively speaking is quite significant.
Although taurine was initially procured through bio-extraction, today’s common practice – with heavy emphasis on industrial production – is chemical synthesis. Namely, taurine can be produced either through the esterification of ethanolamine or by ethylene oxide. The latter method is preferred due to its low cost, minimal environmental pollution and success in producing a high yield of quality taurine.
In 1827, the two German scientists, Leopold Gmelin and Friedrich Tiedemann, isolated taurine from the bile of an ox. While bio-extraction for a time was the method in acquiring concentrations of taurine, the modern practice with respect to its commercial production is chemical synthesis through esterification.