REVIEW ARTICLE: Melatonin plus exercise-based neurorehabilitative therapy for spinal cord injury


Address reprint request to Yonggeun Hong, Department of Physical Therapy, Cardiovascular & Metabolic Disease Center, College of Biomedical Science & Engineering, Inje University, 607 O-bang Dong, Gimhae 621-749, Korea.
Kyu-Tae Chang, National Primate Research Center (NPRC), Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology (KRIBB), Ochang 363-883, Korea.


Abstract:  Spinal cord injury (SCI) is damage to the spinal cord caused by the trauma or disease that results in compromised or loss of body function. Subsequent to SCI in humans, many individuals have residual motor and sensory deficits that impair functional performance and quality of life. The available treatments for SCI are rehabilitation therapy, activity-based therapies, and pharmacological treatment using antioxidants and their agonists. Among pharmacological treatments, the most efficient and commonly used antioxidant for experimental SCI treatment is melatonin, an indolamine secreted by pineal gland at night. Melatonin’s receptor-independent free radical scavenging action and its broad-spectrum antioxidant activity makes it an ideal antioxidant to protect tissue from oxidative stress-induced secondary damage after SCI. Owing to the limitations of an activity-based therapy and antioxidant treatment singly on the functional recovery and oxidative stress-induced secondary damages after SCI, a melatonin plus exercise treatment may be a more effective therapy for SCI. As suggested herein, supplementation with melatonin in conjunction with exercise not only would improve the functional recovery by enhancing the beneficial effects of exercise but would reduce the secondary tissue damage simultaneously. Finally, melatonin may protect against exercise-induced fatigue and impairments. In this review, based on the documented evidence regarding the beneficial effects of melatonin, activity-based therapy and the combination of both on functional recovery, as well as reduction of secondary damage caused by oxidative stress after SCI, we suggest the melatonin combined with exercise would be a novel neurorehabilitative strategy for the faster recovery after SCI.