Team finds melatonin delays ALS symptom onset and death in mice

April 25, 2013, University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

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: Melatonin delays onset, reduces deaths in mouse model of Huntington's disease

Related Stories

Melatonin delays onset, reduces deaths in mouse model of Huntington's disease

October 11, 2011
Melatonin, best known for its role in sleep regulation, delayed the onset of symptoms and reduced mortality in a mouse model of Huntington's disease, say researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and ...

Melatonin reduces blood pressure and tunes up disrupted circadian rhythms in the elderly

May 17, 2016
The older we get, the more likely our circadian rhythms are disrupted. For example, blood pressure (BP), not only tends to increase but as well become more irregular. Luckily, as we show in our research, melatonin helps to ...

Melatonin boost a key to fighting breast cancer

August 23, 2016
Melatonin, a hormone produced in the human brain, appears to suppress the growth of breast cancer tumors.

Sleep hormone melatonin helps breast cancer drug kill more cancer cells

June 14, 2016
Tiny bubbles filled with the sleep hormone melatonin can make breast cancer treatment more effective, which means people need a lower dose, giving them less severe side effects. In a new study published in Colloids and Surfaces ...

Melatonin signaling is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes

May 12, 2016
A sleeping pancreas releases less insulin, but how much insulin drops each night may differ from person to person, suggests a study published May 12, 2016 in Cell Metabolism. Up to 30 percent of the population may be predisposed ...

Warning on use of melatonin for children's sleep

February 25, 2015
Sleep researchers at the University of Adelaide are warning doctors and parents not to provide the drug melatonin to children to help control their sleep problems.

Recommended for you

In live brain function, researchers are finally seeing red

November 12, 2018
For years, green has been the most reliable hue for live brain imaging, but after using a new high-throughput screening method, researchers at the John B. Pierce Laboratory and the Yale School of Medicine, together with collaborators ...

Researchers identify the neural basis of threatening and aggressive behaviors in Drosophila

November 9, 2018
You can always tell when two guys are about to get into a fight. It starts with angry stares, puffed-out chests, arms tossed out to the side, and little, aggressive starts forward. Neuroscientists call the combination of ...

Multiple sclerosis: Accumulation of B cells triggers nervous system damage

November 9, 2018
B cells are important in helping the immune system fight pathogens. However, in the case of the neurological autoimmune disease multiple sclerosis (MS), they can damage nerve tissue. When particular control cells are missing, ...

Monkey gaze study shows dopamine's role in response inhibition

November 9, 2018
University of Tsukuba researchers report the importance of the brain's dopaminergic system for inhibiting already-planned actions. They trained monkeys to redirect their gaze toward targets presented on a screen, apart from ...

Navigating our thoughts: Fundamental principles of thinking

November 8, 2018
It is one of the most fundamental questions in neuroscience: How do humans think? Until recently, we seemed far from a conclusive answer. However, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences ...

Study finds new mechanism for regulating sleep in fruit flies using an ingredient commonly found in energy drinks

November 8, 2018
Sleep is an essential behavioral state in animals ranging from invertebrates to humans. It is critical for immune function, stable metabolism, brain repair, learning and memory. Over the course of a lifetime, more than 30 ...

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.