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Table of Contents
Year : 2012  |  Volume : 16  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 672-674

Melatonin: Miracles far beyond the pineal gland

Dow University of Health Sciences, Karachi, Pakistan

Date of Web Publication5-Jul-2012

Correspondence Address:
Rafia Afzal
Medical student 4th year, Dow University of Health Sciences, Sector 15 A-2 Bufferzone, Karachi
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2230-8210.98051

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How to cite this article:
Afzal R. Melatonin: Miracles far beyond the pineal gland. Indian J Endocr Metab 2012;16:672-4

How to cite this URL:
Afzal R. Melatonin: Miracles far beyond the pineal gland. Indian J Endocr Metab [serial online] 2012 [cited 2021 Jan 26];16:672-4. Available from: https://www.ijem.in/text.asp?2012/16/4/672/98051


Melatonin has recently been recognized to have a role as an anti-oxidant in the human ovarian follicle, and its use may result in improved fertility. [1] Studies on animal models have also revealed the anti-obesity effects of melatonin and found this hormone to prevent hyperadiposity. Thus, melatonin may play a potential therapeutic role in metabolic syndrome. [2]

I read this fresh add-on in literature along with articles in the IJEM [3],[4] with keen interest. This prompted a review of literature for current clinical indications of melatonin, as well as its potential, versatile role.

Melatonin, chemically named as N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine, is a naturally occurring lipophilic compound found in animals, plants and microbes. [5] Melatonin is synthesized not only by the pineal gland, but also in epithelial cells, bone marrow cells and lymphocytes. [6] Furthermore, melatonin receptors are dispersed throughout the body emphasizing its widespread role in regulating various physiological [6] and psychological processes. [7] Three types of melatonin receptor have been recognized and classified as MT1, MT2 and MT3. [5],[8] In humans, MT1and MT2 receptor subtypes have found to be expressed, mainly in human brain and retina and also in different organs which include cardiovascular system, liver and gallbladder, intestine, kidney and skin. [8]

Melatonin is known to influence sleep and mood patterns; act as scavenger molecule and anti-oxidant; regulate immune mechanisms and carcinogenic processes; and also control reproductive functions. [6],[9],[10]

Keeping all the above mentioned functions of melatonin in mind, we can conclude that treatment with melatonin may show promising results in the treatment of circadian rhythm sleep disorders; depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD); bacterial infections, viral infections, sepsis and cardiovascular diseases; immune disorders and cancers; and sexual problems and infertility. [6]

Nduhirabandi et al. have found melatonin beneficial in the treatment of metabolic syndrome along with the prevention and/or reversion of obesity- related detrimental effects associated with the syndrome. Furthermore, ischemic heart disease and hypertension have also been benefited with melatonin administration. [9] These preliminary results are promising but need further evaluation to establish and standardize this treatment.

Mortality with breast cancer is consistently increasing. In this regard, we can at least address breast cancer-related problems which include anxiety, depression, sleep disturbances and cognitive dysfunction [11] to provide a complication-free survival in patients with breast cancers. Owing to its effects on mood and sleep, melatonin may relieve these symptomatic problems. [11]

Due to actions of immunomodulation, anti-oxidation and inhibition of pro-inflammatory mediators, melatonin is also recommended for the treatment of severe respiratory distress syndrome in pre-mature infants and septic shock. [6] Other pediatric conditions which have been benefited with melatonin treatment include autism spectrum disorders, sleep disorders of various origins, epilepsy and febrile seizures. [12]

Melatonin is also a geroprotective agent which slows the aging process. As melatonin may delay aging process with its versatility of actions, it may also reduce and/or delay the occurrence of Alzheimer's disease. [13]

Abnormal pattern of plasma melatonin levels has been associated with chronic migraine and chronic tension-type headache. [14],[15] Melatonin has a potential therapeutic role in treating several types of headache. [15]

Melatonin is naturally secreted by the entero-chromaffin cells of gastro-intestinal tract and is thought to play a role in mucosal protection against injury. [16],[17] Melatonin is also suggested for the treatment of GERD, functional dyspepsia and irritable bowel syndrome. [17]

In the light of the literature cited above, melatonin is now evolving as a versatile and multifunctional molecule, with promising role in different clinical conditions. It is yet all-important to determine the efficacy of melatonin in more clinical trials, to further confirm its efficacy as well as to investigate its possible side effects in longer durations of therapy.

   References Top

1.Tamura H, Takasaki A, Taketani T, Tanabe M, Kizuka F, Lee L, et al. The role of melatonin as an antioxidant in the follicle. J Ovarian Res 2012;5:5.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Cardinali DP, Pagano ES, Scacchi Bernasconi PA, Reynoso R, Scacchi P. Disrupted chronobiology of sleep and cytoprotection in obesity: Possible therapeutic value of melatonin. Neuro Endocrinol Lett 2011;32:588-606.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Kalra S, Bandgar T, Sahay M. The sun, the moon, and renal endocrinology. Indian J Endocrinol Metab 2012;16:156-7.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Kalra S, Agrawal S, Sahay M. The reno-pineal axis: A novel role for melatonin. Indian J Endocrinol Metab 2012;16:192-4.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Chen C-Q, FichnaJ, BashashatiM, Li YY, Storr M. Distribution, function and physiological role of melatonin in the lower gut. World J Gastroenterol 2011;17:3888-98.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Srinivasan V, Mohamed M, Kato H. Melatonin in Bacterial and Viral Infections with Focus on Sepsis: A Review. Recent Pat Endocr Metab Immune Drug Discov 2012;6:30-9.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Chattoraj A, Liu T, Zhang LS, Huang Z, Borjigin J. Melatonin formation in mammals: In vivo perspectives. Rev Endocr Metab Disord 2009;10:237-43.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Ekmekcioglu C. Melatonin receptors in humans: Biological role and clinical relevance. Biomed Pharmacother 2006;60:97-108.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Nduhirabandi F, du Toit EF, Lochner A. Melatonin and the metabolic syndrome: A tool for effective therapy in obesity-associated abnormalities? Acta Physiol (Oxf) 2012. [In Press]  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Slominski RM, Reiter RJ, Schlabritz-Loutsevitch N, Ostrom RS, Slominski AT. Melatonin membrane receptors in peripheral tissues: Distribution and functions. Mol Cell Endocrinol 2012;351:152-66.  Back to cited text no. 10
11.Hansen MV, Madsen MT, Hageman I, Rasmussen LS, Bokmand S, Rosenberg J, et al. The effect of MELatOnin on Depression, anxietY, cognitive function and sleep disturbances in patients with breast cancer. The MELODY trial: Protocol for a randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blinded trial. BMJ Open 2012;2:e000647.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Sánchez-Barceló EJ, Mediavilla MD, Reiter RJ. Clinicaluses of melatonin in pediatrics. Int J Pediatr2011;2011:892624.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Rosales-Corral SA, Acuña-Castroviejo D, Coto-Montes A, Boga JA, Manchester LC, Fuentes-Broto L, et al. Alzheimer's disease: Pathological mechanisms and the beneficial role of melatonin. J Pineal Res 2012;52:167-202.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Bruera O, Sances G, Leston J,Levin G, Cristina S, Medina C, et al. Plasma melatonin pattern in chronic and episodic headaches: Evaluation during sleep and waking. Funct Neurol 2008;23:77-81.  Back to cited text no. 14
15.Prieto Peres MF, Valença MM. Headache endocrinological aspects. Handb Clin Neurol 2010;97:717-37.  Back to cited text no. 15
16.Kandil TS, Mousa AA, El-Gendy AA, Abbas AM. The potential therapeutic effect of melatonin in Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease. BMC Gastroenterol 2010;10:7.  Back to cited text no. 16
17.Werbach MR. Melatonin for the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux disease. Altern Ther Health Med 2008;14:54-8.  Back to cited text no. 17

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