Study Suggests Further Research of Melatonin To Decrease MS Relapses Warranted Interview with:
Mauricio F. Farez
Center for Research on Neuroimmunological Diseases (CIEN)
Raúl Carrea Institute for Neurological Research (FLENI)
Buenos Aires, Argentina

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Farez: We were intrigued by our initial observation that Multiple Sclerosis (MS) relapses have a clear seasonal occurrence with less relapses during fall and winter. We found that melatonin levels (a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the absence of light) have an inverse correlation with Multiple Sclerosis relapses. Moreover, melatonin controls the generation of pathogenic Th17 cells, while it boosts the generation of regulatory Tr1 cells. By affecting the immune balance of those cells it may prevents the occurrence of relapse.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Farez: Melatonin and drugs alike targeting its pathways may be a future alternative in Multiple Sclerosis  treatment. Until a proper clinical trial is conducted, melatonin SHOULD NOT be used as Multiple Sclerosis therapy. I would like to emphasize this, because melatonin is a complex hormone with receptors present basically in every cell. We do not know yet the dosage and administration form needed to obtain similar effects as the one observed in our in vitro and animal studies.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Farez: Our data definitively indicate that clinical trial evaluating melatonin or related drugs in Multiple Sclerosis are required. We are working towards that direction. Finally, we are also working on trying to understand the interrelationship between melatonin and vitamin D levels (another seasonal factor associated with Multiple Sclerosis).


Mauricio F. Farez, Ivan D. Mascanfroni, Santiago P. Méndez-Huergo, Ada Yeste, Gopal Murugaiyan, Lucien P. Garo, María E. Balbuena Aguirre, Bonny Patel, María C. Ysrraelit, Chen Zhu, Vijay K. Kuchroo, Gabriel A. Rabinovich, Francisco J. Quintana, Jorge Correale. Melatonin Contributes to the Seasonality of Multiple Sclerosis Relapses. Cell, 2015; 162 (6): 1338 DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2015.08.025

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