Sleep hormone (melatonin) may influence multiple sclerosis symptoms
Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease of the central nervous system where immune T-cells mistakenly attack the protective sheath around nerve pathways, scrambling signals between the brain and the body. Because MS relapses can occur with seasonal changes, doctors suspected a link to sunlight and vitamin D levels. In this study, researchers found that 139 people with MS relapses had significantly fewer symptoms during the fall and winter. Doctors analyzed several factors including environment, respiratory health, sun exposure, and vitamin D. The one factor with a consistent link to MS symptoms was melatonin, which the body produces at higher levels in the fall and winter. Continuing in the lab, melatonin influenced two kinds of white blood cells: “killer” T-cells that attack, and “regulatory” T-cells that shut them off. Doctors said melatonin has a protective effect, dampening the immune response by keeping killer T-cells at bay. It is too early to recommend people with MS take
melatonin, but more research is under way.

Reference: Cell; 2015, Vol. 162, No. 6, 1338-52.
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