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Clinical Uses of Melatonin in Pediatrics

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      This study analyzes the results of clinical trials of treatments with melatonin conducted in children, mostly focused on sleep disorders of different origin. Melatonin is beneficial not only in the treatment of dyssomnias, especially delayed sleep phase syndrome, but also on sleep disorders present in children with attention-deficit hyperactivity, autism spectrum disorders, and, in general, in all sleep disturbances associated with mental, neurologic, or other medical disorders. Sedative properties of melatonin have been used in diagnostic situations requiring sedation or as a premedicant in children undergoing anesthetic procedures. Epilepsy and febrile seizures are also susceptible to treatment with melatonin, alone or associated with conventional antiepileptic drugs. Melatonin has been also used to prevent the progression in some cases of adolescent idiopathic scoliosis. In newborns, and particularly those delivered preterm, melatonin has been used to reduce oxidative stress associated with sepsis, asphyxia, respiratory distress, or surgical stress. Finally, the administration of melatonin, melatonin analogues, or melatonin precursors to the infants through the breast-feeding, or by milk formula adapted for day and night, improves their nocturnal sleep. Side effects of melatonin treatments in children have not been reported. Although the above-described results are promising, specific studies to resolve the problem of dosage, formulations, and length of treatment are necessary.

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      Most cited references 150

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        Abnormal melatonin synthesis in autism spectrum disorders.

        Melatonin is produced in the dark by the pineal gland and is a key regulator of circadian and seasonal rhythms. A low melatonin level has been reported in individuals with autism spectrum disorders (ASD), but the underlying cause of this deficit was unknown. The ASMT gene, encoding the last enzyme of melatonin synthesis, is located on the pseudo-autosomal region 1 of the sex chromosomes, deleted in several individuals with ASD. In this study, we sequenced all ASMT exons and promoters in individuals with ASD (n=250) and compared the allelic frequencies with controls (n=255). Non-conservative variations of ASMT were identified, including a splicing mutation present in two families with ASD, but not in controls. Two polymorphisms located in the promoter (rs4446909 and rs5989681) were more frequent in ASD compared to controls (P=0.0006) and were associated with a dramatic decrease in ASMT transcripts in blood cell lines (P=2 x 10(-10)). Biochemical analyses performed on blood platelets and/or cultured cells revealed a highly significant decrease in ASMT activity (P=2 x 10(-12)) and melatonin level (P=3 x 10(-11)) in individuals with ASD. These results indicate that a low melatonin level, caused by a primary deficit in ASMT activity, is a risk factor for ASD. They also support ASMT as a susceptibility gene for ASD and highlight the crucial role of melatonin in human cognition and behavior.
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          Effects of melatonin treatment in septic newborns.

           E Gitto,  D Tan,  S Cordaro (2001)
          Free radicals have been implicated in the pathogenesis of neonatal sepsis and its complications. This study was conducted to determine the changes in the clinical status and the serum levels of lipid peroxidation products [malondialdehyde (MDA) and 4-hydroxylalkenals (4-HDA)] in 10 septic newborns treated with the antioxidant melatonin given within the first 12 h after diagnosis. Ten other septic newborns in a comparable state were used as "septic" controls, while 10 healthy newborns served as normal controls. A total of 20 mg melatonin was administered orally in two doses of 10 mg each, with a 1-h interval. One blood sample was collected before melatonin administration and two additional blood samples (at 1 and 4 h) were collected after melatonin administration to assess serum levels of lipid peroxidation products. Serum MDA + 4-HDA concentrations in newborns with sepsis were significantly higher than those in healthy infants without sepsis; in contrast, in septic newborns treated with melatonin there was a significant reduction (p < 0.05) of MDA + 4-HDA to the levels in the normal controls at both 1 and 4 h (p < 0.05). Melatonin also improved the clinical outcome of the septic newborns as judged by measurement of sepsis-related serum parameters after 24 and 48 h. Three of 10 septic children who were not treated with melatonin died within 72 h after diagnosis of sepsis; none of the 10 septic newborns treated with melatonin died. To our knowledge, this is the first study where melatonin was given to human newborns.

            Author and article information

            1Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, School of Medicine, University of Cantabria and Institute of Formation and Research “Marques de Valdecilla” (IFIMAV), 39011 Santander, Spain
            2Department of Cellular and Structural Biology, University of Texas Health Science Centre, San Antonio, TX 78229, USA
            Author notes
            *Emilio J. Sánchez-Barceló: barcelo@

            Academic Editor: Myron Genel

            Int J Pediatr
            International Journal of Pediatrics
            Hindawi Publishing Corporation
            16 June 2011
            : 2011
            Copyright © 2011 Emilio J. Sánchez-Barceló et al.

            This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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