SEP 21, 2015 11:49 AM PDT

Seasonal Fluctuation of Melatonin Levels Correlated With Multiple Sclerosis Relapse

WRITTEN BY: Sarah Hertrich
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a disease of the nervous system that disrupts the flow of information between the brain and the body. The disease involves a process mediated by the immune system which elicits an abnormal response to the central nervous system (CNS) which includes the brain, spinal cord, and optic nerves. In the brain, the immune systems attacks the myelin sheath leading to the development of scar tissue, also known as sclerosis from which the name of the disease is derived. The Myelin sheath is the protective coating around the nerve fibers in the CNS. Because of the buildup of scar tissue in the brain, nerve impulses sent to and from the spinal cord are interrupted which produces a wide array of physical symptoms in those affected.
 MS is thought to be an epigenetic disease, meaning it is triggered by a combination of genetic and environmental factors.
MS is thought to be an epigenetic disease, meaning it is triggered by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. For example, epidemiological data shows that MS occurs more frequently in geographic locations farther away from the equator. It is hypothesized that this may have something to do with vitamin D deficiencies in places father away from the equator. Other environmental factors including exposure to infections, sodium intake, and smoking are also thought to affect MS activity. Despite the amount of research surrounding MS, the exact cause of the disease is still not known.
 
A new study published this month in Cell based on previous research showing the associations of lower levels of vitamin D and MS relapse rates discusses the effects of seasonal fluctuations in melatonin levels and MS activity. The authors explain that a significant seasonal fluctuation in vitamin D levels is observed in most geographic locations. Therefore; vitamin D synthesis is regulated by sun exposure. Peaks in sun exposure would be experienced in spring-summer and deficiencies experienced in fall and winter. Other research has shown that an increase in MS symptoms is experienced in spring and summer and relapse is highest in fall and winter.
Melatonin levels are negatively correlated with MS disease activity in humans.
Researchers from the Center for Research on Neuroimmunological Disease (CIEN) in Buenos Aires, Argentina discovered that melatonin levels are negatively correlated with MS disease activity in humans. Using a mouse animal model they observed a reduction in MS symptoms in mice when treated with melatonin. It was determined that the mode of action of melatonin in this case involved blocking the differentiation of pathogenic cells while boosting the generation of protective cells. It was concluded that melatonin production is another environmental factor associated with autoimmune disorders including MS. This research has also allowed for the identification of melatonin-based pathways as potential drug targets for the treatment of MS.

Sources: Cell; The National MS Society; AAAS Science News
 
About the Author
  • I am a postdoctoral researcher with interests in pre-harvest microbial food safety, nonthermal food processing technologies, zoonotic pathogens, and plant-microbe interactions. My current research projects involve the optimization of novel food processing technologies to reduce the number of foodborne pathogens on fresh produce. I am a food geek!
You May Also Like
SEP 01, 2020
Cardiology
Can the Protein Dysferlin Protect Your Heart from Reperfusion Injury
SEP 01, 2020
Can the Protein Dysferlin Protect Your Heart from Reperfusion Injury
Have you ever experienced the head rush you get from standing up to fast? Well, oddly enough, something similar happens ...
SEP 07, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
With Nanopores, Small Samples Detect Diseases
SEP 07, 2020
With Nanopores, Small Samples Detect Diseases
If you've ever been through a battery of tests while doctors try to find a diagnosis for an ailment, you know that many ...
SEP 06, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Can we decrease fertilizer needs by modifiying plant proteins?
SEP 06, 2020
Can we decrease fertilizer needs by modifiying plant proteins?
Plants have natural fertilizers built into their physiological structures, reports new research published in the journal ...
SEP 13, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Men and Women Express Many Genes at Different Levels
SEP 13, 2020
Men and Women Express Many Genes at Different Levels
Most humans carry the same genes in their genome, but how are genes expressed differently in men and women?
SEP 25, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Researchers Take Organoids a Step Further
SEP 25, 2020
Researchers Take Organoids a Step Further
The human body is made of many different kinds of cells, which can often be cultured in a lab and studied. However, thos ...
OCT 01, 2020
Cell & Molecular Biology
Signaling Waves Help Guide Cells to Heal Wounds
OCT 01, 2020
Signaling Waves Help Guide Cells to Heal Wounds
During development and throughout our lives, cells have to 'know' where to go to form the right structures and properly ...
Loading Comments...