Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Melatonin dietary supplement as an anti-aging therapy for age-related bone loss

Introduction: Previous studies have shown that melatonin, an antioxidant molecule secreted from the pineal gland, is a positive regulator of bone mass. However, melatonin potential effects on bone mass have never been investigated in old population yet. The aim of this study was to assess the effects of dietary melatonin supplementation on mass accrual and biomechanical properties of old rat femora. Methods: Twenty 22-months-old male Wistar rats were divided into 2 randomly assigned groups. The first group was treated for 10 weeks with melatonin, whereas the second group left untreated (control). Rat femurs were collected, and their phenotypes and biomechanical properties were investigated by micro-computed tomography, histomorphometry and 3-point-bending test. Statistical analyses were performed by Student’s two-tailed unpaired t-test. In all experiments, a value of p < 0.05 was considered significant. Results: Rats treated with melatonin had higher bone volume, bone trabecular number, trabecular thickness and cortical thickness in comparison to control group. Histomorphometric analyses confirmed the increase of bone volume in melatonin-treated rats. In agreement with these findings, melatonin-treated rats demonstrated with higher bone stiffness, flexural modulus and ultimate load compared to controls. Conclusion: These compelling results are the first evidence indicating that dietary melatonin supplementation is able to exert beneficial effects against age-related bone loss in old rats; improving the microstructure and biomechanical properties of aged bones.
 
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Research on elderly rats suggests possible avenue for prevention of osteoporosis
 

Faleh Tamimi, a professor in McGill’s School of Dentistry, is the leader of a research team that has just discovered that melatonin supplements make bones stronger in elderly rats and therefore, potentially, in elderly humans too. “Old rats are tedious to work with because they get sick a lot and that means they also cost a lot more. But if you’re interested in diseases like osteoporosis, they’re an essential part of the process.”
 
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones – sleep and bone regulation
 
The process of bone breakdown and buildup is affected by our circadian rhythms. The cells which break down our bones (known as osteoclasts) are more active at night, while those responsible for bone formation (osteoblasts) are more active during daylight hours.  “As we age, we sleep less well, which means that the osteoclasts are more active,” says Tamimi.  “This tends to speed up the process of bone breakdown.”
 
It is already well established that melatonin plays a role in regulating our body clocks and can potentially help us sleep better. So the researchers suspected that a melatonin supplement would help regulate the circadian rhythms of the elderly rats, thus reducing the activity of the osteoclasts and slowing down the process of bone breakdown. And that is exactly what they found.
 
22-month-old rats are the equivalent of 60-year-old humans
Researchers at the University of Madrid, where the rats were housed, gave twenty 22-month-old male rats (the equivalent of 60 year-old humans) melatonin supplements diluted in water for 10 weeks (the equivalent of six years in human years). The femurs taken from the elderly rats which had received the melatonin supplements were then compared with those of a control group (which had not received the supplements) using a series of tests to measure bone density and strength.
 
The researchers found that there was a significant increase in both bone volume and density among the rats that had received melatonin supplements. As a result, it took much more force to break the bones of rats that had taken the melatonin supplements, a finding that suggests to the researchers that melatonin may prove a useful tool in combatting osteoporosis.
 
For Tamimi and his colleagues the next big question is whether melatonin is preventing or actually reversing the process of bone breakdown.  “Until there is more research as well as clinical trials to determine how exactly the melatonin is working, we can’t recommend that people with osteoporosis go ahead and simply take melatonin supplements,” says Tamimi. “I am applying for funding to pursue the research and we hope to have answers soon.”
 
 
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