Category Archives: Light at Night

Review: Melatonin Induces Osteoblastogenesis and Inhibits Osteoclastogenesis


Melatonin effects on bone: potential use for the prevention and treatment for osteopenia, osteoporosis, and periodontal disease and for use in bone-grafting procedures.

An important role for melatonin in bone formation and restructuring has emerged, and studies demonstrate the multiple mechanisms for these beneficial actions. Statistical analysis shows that even with existing osteoporotic therapies, bone-related disease, and mortality are on the rise, creating a huge financial burden for societies worldwide. These findings suggest that novel alternatives need to be developed to either prevent or reverse bone loss to combat osteoporosis-related fractures. The focus of this review describes melatonin’s role in bone physiology and discusses how disruption of melatonin rhythms by light exposure at night, shift work, and disease can adversely impact on bone. The signal transduction mechanisms underlying osteoblast and osteoclast differentiation and coupling with one another are discussed with a focus on how melatonin, through the regulation of RANKL and osteoprotegerin synthesis and release from osteoblasts, can induce osteoblastogenesis while inhibiting osteoclastogenesis. Also, melatonin’s free-radical scavenging and antioxidant properties of this indoleamine are discussed as yet an additional mechanism by which melatonin can maintain one’s bone health, especially oral health. The clinical use for melatonin in bone-grafting procedures, in reversing bone loss due to osteopenia and osteoporosis, and in managing periodontal disease is discussed.

Maria S, Witt-Enderby PA
J. Pineal Res. Dec 2013
PMID: 24372640

Nightshift Work Associated with Fractures


Nightshift work and fracture risk: the Nurses’ Health Study.

Nightshift work suppresses melatonin production and has been associated with an increased risk of major diseases including hormonally related tumors. Experimental evidence suggests that light at night acts through endocrine disruption likely mediated by melatonin. To date, no observational study has addressed the effect of night work on osteoporotic fractures, another condition highly sensitive to sex steroid exposure. Our study, to our knowledge, the first to address this question, supports the hypothesis that nightshift work may negatively affect bone health, adding to the growing list of ailments that have been associated with shift work.
We evaluated the association between nightshift work and fractures at the hip and wrist in postmenopausal nurses.
The study population was drawn from Nurses’ Health Study participants who were working full or part time in nursing in 1988 and had reported their total number of years of rotating nightshift work. Through 2000, 1,223 incident wrist and hip fractures involving low or moderate trauma were identified among 38,062 postmenopausal women. We calculated multivariate relative risks (RR) of fracture over varying lengths of follow-up in relation to years of nightshift work.
Compared with women who never worked night shifts, 20+ years of nightshift work was associated with a significantly increased risk of wrist and hip fractures over 8 years of follow-up [RR = 1.37, 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.04-1.80]. This risk was strongest among women with a lower body mass index (<24) who never used hormone replacement therapy (RR = 2.36; 95% CI, 1.33-4.20). The elevated risk was no longer apparent with 12 years of follow-up after the baseline single assessment of nightshift work.
Long durations of rotating nightshift work may contribute to risk of hip and wrist fractures, although the potential for unexplained confounding cannot be ruled out.

Feskanich D, Hankinson SE, Schernhammer ES
Osteoporos Int Apr 2009
PMID: 18766292

Melatonin Increases Bone Density in Blind Mice


Effects on bone by the light/dark cycle and chronic treatment with melatonin and/or hormone replacement therapy in intact female mice.

In this study, the effects of the light/dark cycle, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and nocturnal melatonin supplementation on osteogenic markers and serum melatonin levels were examined in a blind mouse model (MMTV-Neu transgenic mice). Melatonin levels in this mouse strain (FVB/N) with retinal degeneration (rd-/-) fluctuate in a diurnal manner, suggesting that these mice, although blind, still perceive light. Real-time RT-PCR analyses demonstrated that Runx2, Bmp2, Bmp6, Bglap, and Per2 mRNA levels coincide with melatonin levels. The effect of chronic HRT (0.5 mg 17β-estradiol + 50 mg progesterone in 1800 kcal of diet) alone and in combination with melatonin (15 mg/L drinking water) on bone quality and density was also assessed by histomorphometry and microcomputed tomography, respectively. Bone density was significantly increased (P < 0.05) after 1 yr of treatment with the individual therapies, HRT (22% increase) and nocturnal melatonin (20% increase) compared to control. Hormone replacement therapy alone also increased surface bone, decreased trabecular space, and decreased the number of osteoclasts without affecting osteoblast numbers compared to the control group (P < 0.05). Chronic HRT + melatonin therapy did not significantly increase bone density, even though this combination significantly increased Bglap mRNA levels. These data suggest that the endogenous melatonin rhythm modulates markers important to bone physiology. Hormone replacement therapy with or without nocturnal melatonin in cycling mice produces unique effects on bone markers and bone density. The effects of these therapies alone and combined may improve bone health in women in perimenopause and with low nocturnal melatonin levels from too little sleep, too much light, or age.

Witt-Enderby PA, Slater JP, Johnson NA, Bondi CD…
J. Pineal Res. Nov 2012
PMID: 22639972

Hypothesis: Melatonin for Facial Bone Loss


Could the Fountain of Youth Be All in Your Bones?

Melatonin, a molecule released from the pineal gland in response to darkness, has long been known to keep one’s sleep-wake cycles entrained to the light-dark cycle; however, there has been a surge in publications showing that melatonin has protective effects on bone. Disruption of nocturnal melatonin levels by light exposure at night, and through the natural aging process, produces adverse effects on bone. Use of melatonin to prevent bone loss or enhance bone formation has great clinical utility, including preventing maxillofacial bone loss and/or enhancing bone regeneration in maxillofacial bone reconstructive surgeries. This brief editorial comment sheds some “light” into a novel use for melatonin in preventing facial bone loss.

Witt-Enderby P
J Oral Implantol Apr 2012
PMID: 22506832

Review: Melatonin and the Skeleton


Melatonin and the skeleton.

Melatonin may affect bone metabolism through bone anabolic as well as antiresorptive effects. An age-related decrease in peak melatonin levels at nighttime is well documented, which may increase bone resorption and bone loss in the elderly. In vitro, melatonin reduces oxidative stress on bone cells by acting as an antioxidant. Furthermore, melatonin improves bone formation by promoting differentiation of human mesenchymal stem cell (hMSC) into the osteoblastic cell linage. Bone resorption is reduced by increased synthesis of osteoprogeterin (OPG), a decoy receptor that prevents receptor activator of NK-κB ligand (RANKL) in binding to its receptor. Moreover, melatonin is believed to reduce the synthesis of RANKL preventing further bone resorption. In ovariectomized as well as nonovariectomized rodents, melatonin has shown beneficial effects on bone as assessed by biochemical bone turnover markers, DXA, and μCT scans. Furthermore, in pinealectomized animals, bone mineral density (BMD) is significantly decreased compared to controls, supporting the importance of sufficient melatonin levels. In humans, dysfunction of the melatonin signaling pathway may be involved in idiopathic scoliosis, and the increased fracture risk in nighttime workers may be related to changes in the circadian rhythm of melatonin. In the so-far only randomized study on melatonin treatment, no effects were, however, found on bone turnover markers. In conclusion, melatonin may have beneficial effects on the skeleton, but more studies on humans are warranted in order to find out whether supplementation with melatonin at bedtime may preserve bone mass and improve bone biomechanical competence.

Amstrup AK, Sikjaer T, Mosekilde L, Rejnmark L
Osteoporos Int May 2013
PMID: 23716040