Environmental factors such as infections, salt intake, smoking, and vitamin D levels are known to affect MS development and the disease course.
Seasonal changes in disease activity have also been observed in MS, and several studies found that inflammation is higher in spring and summer.
A recent study carried out in Buenos Aires, Argentina, suggested that melatonin could be a possible cause of these seasonal changes in MS.
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by human brain. Its primary function is regulation of day-night cycles. Levels of melatonin are interestingly higher in autumn and winter, when clinical relapses of MS are generally less frequent.
The Argentinian researchers measured melatonin levels in 139 people with relapsing-remitting MS, and their findings further confirmed that higher concentration of melatonin correspond to lower number of relapses. They also showed that melatonin improves the disease in mice models of MS.
Melatonin represents an environmental cue that contributes to the seasonality of multiple sclerosis relapses and is a potential target for therapeutic intervention in immune-mediated diseases like MS.
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