Team finds melatonin delays ALS symptom onset and death in mice

April 25, 2013

Melatonin injections delayed symptom onset and reduced mortality in a mouse model of the neurodegenerative condition amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. In a report published online ahead of print in the journal Neurobiology of Disease, the team revealed that receptors for melatonin are found in the nerve cells, a finding that could launch novel therapeutic approaches.

Annually about 5,000 people are diagnosed with ALS, which is characterized by and eventual death due to the failure of respiratory muscles, said senior investigator Robert Friedlander, M.D., UPMC Endowed Professor of neurosurgery and neurobiology and chair, Department of Neurological Surgery, Pitt School of Medicine. But the causes of the condition are not well understood, thwarting development of a cure or even effective treatments.

Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone that is best known for its role in sleep regulation. After screening more than a thousand FDA-approved drugs several years ago, the research team determined that melatonin is a powerful antioxidant that blocks the release of enzymes that activate apoptosis, or programmed cell death.

"Our experiments show for the first time that a lack of melatonin and melatonin receptor 1, or MT1, is associated with the progression of ALS," Dr. Friedlander said. "We saw similar results in a Huntington's disease model in an earlier project, suggesting similar are disrupted in these challenging ."

Hoping to stop in ALS just as they did in Huntington's, the research team treated mice bred to have an ALS-like disease with injections of melatonin or with a placebo. Compared to untreated animals, the melatonin group developed symptoms later, survived longer, and had less degeneration of in the spinal cord.

"Much more work has to be done to unravel these mechanisms before human trials of melatonin or a drug akin to it can be conducted to determine its usefulness as an ALS treatment," Dr. Friedlander said. "I suspect that a combination of agents that act on these pathways will be needed to make headway with this devastating disease."

Explore further: Research confirms that melatonin could prevent sepsis, top cause of death in hospital ICUs

Related Stories

The mystery of breast cancer

April 20, 2015

For most of the common cancers, a major cause has been identified: smoking causes 90% of lung cancer worldwide, hepatitis viruses cause most liver cancer, H pylori bacteria causes stomach cancer, Human papillomavirus causes ...

Recommended for you

New device to get people with paralysis back on their feet

February 8, 2016

The brain machine interface consists of a stent-based electrode (stentrode), which is implanted within a blood vessel in the brain, and records the type of neural activity that has been shown in pre-clinical trials to move ...

Modelling how the brain makes complex decisions

February 4, 2016

Researchers have constructed the first comprehensive model of how neurons in the brain behave when faced with a complex decision-making process, and how they adapt and learn from mistakes.

The amazing axon adventure

February 5, 2016

How does the brain make connections, and how does it maintain them? Cambridge neuroscientists and mathematicians are using a variety of techniques to understand how the brain 'wires up', and what it might be able to tell ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.