Melatonin, tunneling nanotubes, mesenchymal cells, and tissue regeneration

Francesca Luchetti, Silvia Carloni, Maria G. Nasoni, Russel J. Reiter, Walter Balduini

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Mesenchymal stem cells are multipotent stem cells that reside in many human tissues and organs. Mesenchymal stem cells are widely used in experimental and clinical regenerative medicine due to their capability to transdifferentiate into various lineages. However, when transplanted, they lose part of their multipotency and immunomodulatory properties, and most of them die after injection into the damaged tissue. In this review, we discuss the potential utility of melatonin in preserving mesenchymal stem cells' survival and function after transplantation. Melatonin is a pleiotropic molecule regulating critical cell functions including apoptosis, endoplasmic reticulum stress, and autophagy. Melatonin is also synthesized in the mitochondria where it reduces oxidative stress, the opening of the mitochondrial permeability transition pore and the downstream caspase activation, activates uncoupling proteins, and curtails the proinflammatory response. In addition, recent findings showed that melatonin also promotes the formation of tunneling nanotubes and the transfer of mitochondria between cells through the connecting tubules. As mitochondrial dysfunction is a primary cause of mesenchymal stem cells death and senescence and a critical issue for survival after transplantation, we propose that melatonin by favoring mitochondria functionality and their transfer through tunneling nanotubes from healthy to suffering cells could improve mesenchymal stem cell-based therapy in a large number of diseases for which basic and clinical trials are underway.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)760-762
Number of pages3
JournalNeural Regeneration Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2023


  • brain ischemia
  • cell transplantation
  • melatonin
  • mesenchymal stem cell
  • mitochondria
  • mitochondrial transplantation
  • regenerative therapy
  • senescence
  • tunneling nanotubes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental Neuroscience


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