A novel combination of the amino acids β-alanine and taurine, can provide a lift to patients suffering from fatigue and immune system dysregulation due to chronic fatigue syndrome, hepatitis C infection and cancer.
Known as Taurox, this new dipeptide appears to reduce fatigue by modulating immune system function.
“There’s a history of dipeptides affecting immune function, and this is a significant immune signaling molecule. It seems to shift the immune system to Th1 rather than Th2-type responses,” said Floyd Taub, MD, a former National Cancer Institute pathologist who is involved in development of the compound. He stressed that Taurox is a true dipeptide in that the β-alanine and taurine are chemically bound together, along with a sulfur group. “It is not a mixture. If you tried to mix the amino acids together, you would not see these effects.”
In a series of cell culture experiments, researchers at the University of Maryland found that when Taurox was added to unstimulated T-cells, it appeared to increase production of mRNA for Th1 cytokines. When added to activated T-cells, it induced an overall down-regulation of cytokine production.
Less Fatigue, More Energy
In a small clinical trial, Dr. Taub and colleagues used Taurox to treat 16 patients with constant fatigue related to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)/fibromyalgia, hepatitis C, irritable bowel syndrome, and cancer (breast and melanoma). Patients were treated for a minimum of 8 weeks, and assessed weekly using standardized fatigue measures.
All but one of the patients had significant reductions in fatigue, improvements in overall energy levels, and better sleep. In aggregate, mean fatigue scores went from 65 at baseline to 33, a 52% change. In a subgroup of 4 hepatitis C patients, the mean score went from 59 to 23, a change of 61%.
One of these patients, who had previously failed interferon therapy, showed a 40% reduction in viral load. Other hepatitis patients showed normalization of liver enzymes. These findings suggest Taurox may have direct antiviral properties, though this has not yet been shown definitively.
The relationship between the immune system and fatigue is becoming increasingly clear. Immunomodulators like interferon-α, interleukin-2, and tumor necrosis factor (TNF) used in treatment of cancer and hepatitis can induce fatigue, “brain fog,” myalgia and depression. Similar symptoms accompany flu, a condition characterized by vigorous cytokine cascades.
Patients with chronic CFS/fibromyalgia typically show a chronically overactive Th2 type of cytokine profile. While the Th2 response signifies immune system health in the presence of an acute infection, chronic overactivation leads to a state of exhaustion, and paradoxically an increased susceptibility to infections.
Nanodrug at the Crossroads
Taurox can trigger immune system changes at extremely small doses, in the nanogram range. Because of this, it can be produced and regulated as a homeopathic drug.
In a sense, it sits at the crossroad between conventional pharmaceuticals and homeopathic medicines. “There are some conventional drugs that work in microgram doses,” said Dr. Taub. “This is essentially a nanodrug, and though it is technically classed as a homeopathic, we expect it will be used much more by conventional physicians than homeopaths. It does not really fit with classical homeopathy. At the same time it is unlike existing pharmaceuticals. I think it represents a real crossover.”
Mitchell Fleisher, MD, a family physician and homeopath in Nellysford, VA, has used Taurox in several dozen patients with disorders including cancer, hepatitis B or C, and Lyme Disease. “Generally, what I see is an increase in energy, better sleep, fewer colds, improved appetite and less of the aches and other fatigue symptoms,” he told Holistic Primary Care. “The lab work shows increased NK cell activity, and increased CD4+ and CD8+ cells. With the hepatitis patients, I’ve seen quantitative reductions in viral loads. One of these patients has been able to get off ribavirin and interferon.”
Dr. Fleisher who does not have a direct relationship with Allergy Research Group, the company marketing Taurox, added that one of the strengths of this product is that while it is technically a homeopathic preparation, it does contain measurable levels of the dipeptide. “You really are getting the best of both worlds; you get both a material biochemical effect and an energetic homeopathic effect.”
So far, there have been no significant adverse effects or drug interactions with Taurox. Since the substance influences immune function, it should not be given to patients on immunosuppressive drugs or to organ transplant patients.
While he believes it will be effective in helping cancer patients cope with fatigue associated with chemotherapy and radiation, Dr. Taub advised against giving Taurox concurrently with conventional cancer therapies; the ways in which it might interact with chemotherapy drugs are not known. The appropriate timing, based on clinical experience, is after completion of conventional treatment, when the patient is in the recovery phase. Taurox has not yet been tested in pregnant or lactating women, and probably should not be given to these patients.
The discovery of Taurox came out of Dr. Taub’s longstanding interest in improving cancer care. After leaving NCI in 1984, he started a company called Digene, which developed a non-radioactive DNA probe for human papilloma virus that has since become a standard screening tool for cervical cancer risk.
After selling Digene, he founded Dovetail (www.dovetailtech.org), a pharmaceutical development company specializing in “nanodrug” immunomodulators. In many ways, Dovetail is at the frontier where biotechnology meets alternative medicine. Taurox is marketed exclusively by Allergy Research Group (www.allergyresearchgroup.com), a company specializing in innovative nutraceutical products for health care professionals.
While it may ultimately prove to have direct antineoplastic and antiviral effects, Taurox’s primary role is as a safe and effective way of alleviating chronic fatigue, a condition for which conventional medicine has little to offer. While a number of drugs have been tested in treatment of CFS, including Fluoxetine (Prozac), cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril), and amitriptyline (Elavil), response rates have only been in the range of 0–25%.
“Taurox is, essentially, a quality of life drug. For less than the price of a cup of coffee, it can make a real difference in the lives of patients who suffer from constant fatigue,” said Dr. Taub.