The consumption of energy drinks is continuously rising, particularly in children and adolescents. While risks for adverse health effects, like arrhythmia, have been described, effects on neural cells remain elusive. Considering that neurodevelopmental processes like myelination and neuronal network formation peak in childhood and adolescence we hypothesized that developing oligodendrocytes and neurons are particularly vulnerable to main energy drink components. Immature oligodendrocytes and hippocampal neurons were isolated from P0-P1 Wistar rats and were incubated with 0.3 mg/mL caffeine and 4 mg/mL taurine alone or in combination for 24 h. Analysis was performed immediately after treatment or after additional three days under differentiating conditions for oligodendrocytes and standard culture for neurons. Oligodendrocyte degeneration, proliferation, and differentiation were assessed via immunocytochemistry and immunoblotting. Neuronal integrity was investigated following immunocytochemistry by analysis of dendrite outgrowth and axonal morphology. Caffeine and taurine induced an increased degeneration and inhibited proliferation of immature oligodendrocytes accompanied by a decreased differentiation capacity. Moreover, dendritic branching and axonal integrity of hippocampal neurons were negatively affected by caffeine and taurine treatment. The negative impact of caffeine and taurine on developing oligodendrocytes and disturbed neuronal morphology indicates a high risk for disturbed neurodevelopment in children and adolescents by excessive energy drink consumption.
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