The first observation on the relationship between the pineal gland and the immune system was done by the author of this paper in the late sixties and early seventies of the last century. After neonatal pinealectomy the thymus has been destroyed and wasting disease developed. Since that time a flood of experiments justified the observation and pointed to the prominent role of pineal in the regulation of the immune system. Melatonin, the hormone of the pineal gland stimulates immune processes acting to the immune cells’ cytokine production, the haemopoiesis, and immune cell-target cell interactions. Melatonin receptors have been demonstrated and their localization and function were justified. Melatonin production by and melatonin receptors on (and in) the immune cells was proved. Melatonin agonists have been synthesized and the use of melatonin as adjuvant in the therapy of diseases connected to the immune system (cancers included) has been started. The paper summarizes the most important studies and discusses the interrelations of the data. The discussion points to the possibility of packed transport of the pineal hormone by the immune cells and to the adventages of local regulation by this transport.
Vigh, B., Manzano, M. J., Frank, C. L., Dávid, C. Lukáts, Á., Szél, Á. (2003) Change in the control of the biological circadian rhythms during evolution. The role of the deep brain photoreceptors, pineal organs
Arterial vascularisation of the ovine pineal gland was investigated by latex injection preparations of the common carotid artery in 20 adult Akkaraman sheep brains under stereo light microscope. It was observed that the arterial supply comes exclusively from branches of the caudal cerebral artery. The pineal gland was found to contain a rich vascular network. This network also received a few branches from the caudal choroid rami.
Csaba , G. , Dunay , C. , Fischer , J. , Bodoky , M. : Hormonal relationships of mastocytogenesis in lymphatic organs. 3. Effect of pineal body-thyroid-thymus system on mast cell production . Acta Anat 71 , 565 – 580 ( 1968
The thymus develops from an endocrine area of the foregut, and retains the ancient potencies of this region. However, later it is populated by bone marrow originated lymphatic elements and forms a combined organ, which is a central part of the immune system as well as an influential element of the endocrine orchestra. Thymus produces self-hormones (thymulin, thymosin, thymopentin, and thymus humoral factor), which are participating in the regulation of immune cell transformation and selection, and also synthesizes hormones similar to that of the other endocrine glands such as melatonin, neuropeptides, and insulin, which are transported by the immune cells to the sites of requests (packed transport). Thymic (epithelial and immune) cells also have receptors for hormones which regulate them. This combined organ, which is continuously changing from birth to senescence seems to be a pacemaker of life. This function is basically regulated by the selection of self-responsive thymocytes as their complete destruction helps the development (up to puberty) and their gradual release in case of weakened control (after puberty) causes the erosion of cells and intercellular material, named aging. This means that during aging, self-destructive and non-protective immune activities are manifested under the guidance of the involuting thymus, causing the continuous irritation of cells and organs. Possibly the pineal body is the main regulator of the pacemaker, the neonatal removal of which results in atrophy of thymus and wasting disease and its later corrosion causes the insufficiency of thymus. The co-involution of pineal and thymus could determine the aging and the time of death without external intervention; however, external factors can negatively influence both of them.