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Immune system 

Melatonin levels may explain seasonal variation in MS relapses

Researchers looked at how seasonal factors affect patients with relapsing-remitting mutliple sclerosis and found a correlation between higher melatonin levels and fewer relapses

Researchers looked at how environmental factors affect patients with relapsing-remitting mutliple sclerosis and found a correlation between higher melatonin levels and fewer relapses. In the image, light micrograph of melatonin

Source: Alfred Pasieka / Science Photo Library

Seasonal flucuations in melatonin levels could be part of the reason why relapse rates vary during the year for patients with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis

Higher levels of vitamin D are associated with fewer relapses of the immune-mediated disorder multiple sclerosis (MS). But paradoxically, patients show the fewest relapses in autumn and winter when vitamin D levels are lower.

In a study, published in Cell (10 September 2015)[1], researchers looked at a cohort of 139 patients with relapsing-remitting MS. Levels of melatonin —which affect T-cell differentiation — are higher in the autumn and winter, and correlated with lower levels of disease activity. In contrast, levels of vitamin D or environmental factors showed no seasonal correlation.

The results point to potential targets for therapeutic intervention, though further studies are needed to understand the role of melatonin in autoimmune disease, conclude the authors of the study.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2015.20069362

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  • Researchers looked at how environmental factors affect patients with relapsing-remitting mutliple sclerosis and found a correlation between higher melatonin levels and fewer relapses. In the image, light micrograph of melatonin

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