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Reducing oxidative/nitrosative stress: a newly-discovered genre for melatonin

The discovery of melatonin and its derivatives as antioxidants has stimulated a very large number of studies which have, virtually uniformly, documented the ability of these molecules to detoxify harmful reactants and reduce molecular damage. These observations have clear clinical implications given that numerous age-related diseases in humans have an important free radical component. Moreover, a major theory to explain the processes of aging invokes radicals and their derivatives as causative agents. These conditions,
coupled with the loss of melatonin as organisms age, suggest that some diseases and some aspects of aging may be aggravated by the diminished melatonin levels in advanced age. Another corollary of this is that the administration of melatonin, which has an uncommonly low toxicity profile, could theoretically defer the progression of some diseases and possibly forestall signs of aging. Certainly, research in the next decade will help to define the role of melatonin in age-related diseases and in determining successful aging. While increasing life span will not necessarily be a goal of these investigative efforts, improving health and the quality of life in the aged should be an aim of this research.