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褪黑激素之生物活性及臨床應用
褪黑激素雖然已被發現超過五十年,但相關研究卻方興未艾,邁入2014年至今,全球平均每天仍有超過兩篇以褪黑激素為主題的論文發表,包括從基因調控、粒線體保護至日夜及季節生理狀態調節各層面,同時亦配合全球保健及抗衰老醫學的腳步,可見褪黑激素在生物醫學發展上的潛力不容忽視
 
 
 
褪黑激素(melatonin)名稱源於1917年學者發現蝌蚪經餵食牛腦部松果體(pineal body)萃取物後皮膚顏色變淡,1958年耶魯大學皮膚科教授Lerner等學者嘗試從牛腦部松果體分離出能治療皮膚病的物質而將萃取物命名為褪黑激素(melatonin),後來發現褪黑激素乃大部份由松果體分泌的荷爾蒙,因屬夜間分泌,有「黑暗荷爾蒙亅之稱,且廣泛存在於動植物及微生物中,與皮膚病及黑色素(melanin)皆無直接相關,名稱卻一直沿用至今,但Lerner教授等料想不到的是他們的萃取物遠比發現皮膚病特效藥來得重要;後來研究顯示褪黑激素除了能調節動物的睡眠-清醒循環及生殖周期,更具各種身體保護功能

研究證實褪黑激素不僅為強效的抗氧化劑,能有效保護細胞核及粒線體免受過氧化物傷害,同時亦擁有抗發炎及多項基因調控功能,動物實驗更顯示其具抗老化及增進學習[功效;此外,細胞實驗結果指出褪黑激素能幫助中樞神經細胞對抗阿海默氏症的致病β澱粉樣多肽所導致的細胞死亡,亦有臨床研究顯示其對瞻妄具治療效果,其他臨床應用包括改善睡眠相位後移症候群及自閉症兒童的睡眠障礙;因褪黑激素普遍存在於日常食物中如橘子、香蕉、鳳梨、甚至紅酒,美國食品藥物管理局(FDA)僅將其列為食品添加物,暫無證據顯示以低劑量服用三個月會產生明顯副作用,但有可能產生白天嗜睡、暈眩、頭痛等情形,唯動物實驗指出褪黑激素可能加重巴金氏症的神經退化;最近關於褪黑激素的研究不勝枚舉,結果除加強之前報導的抗老化作用外,並探討其抗癌作用及研究其存在松果體外組織的生理意義;此外,於女性生殖系統所扮演的重要角色亦有著墨,包括血中褪黑激素濃度隨懷孕過程升高,且能調節孕婦血脂濃度及幫助卵泡抵抗過氧物傷害。

褪黑激素雖然已被發現超過五十年,但相關研究卻方興未艾,邁入2014年至今,全球平均每天仍有超過兩篇以褪黑激素為主題的論文發表,包括從基因調控、粒線體保護至日夜及季節生理狀態調節各層面,同時亦配合全球保健及抗衰老醫學的腳步,可見褪黑激素在生物醫學發展上的潛力不容忽視。

褪黑激素具抗氧化、抗發炎、睡眠調節、生殖調控、抗衰老、中樞神經系統保護等多重作用,又因取得容易及無顯著副作用,加上相關研究不斷,可預見日後於治療及保健使用將漸趨頻繁。(本文由科技部補助「健康醫藥新媒體科普傳播實作計畫責任編輯」執行團隊撰稿)

責任編輯:孫灼均|義大醫院急診醫學部


 
延伸閱讀:
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褪黑激素(6)荷爾蒙(25)松果老化(1)
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