Dr. James Olcese, an Associate Professor of Biomedical Sciences, Neuroscience and Biophysics at Florida State University, has focused his research on circadian physiology. He has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles and is considered a leader in the field.
Through his research he has developed insights into the physiological basis for labor onset.
Dr. Olcese identified melatonin, an output signal of the brain’s circadian clock, as a hormonal trigger for labor. During the course of Dr. Olcese’s research, he noted that most deliveries occur at night, and wondered why. His seminal research defined a synergistic relationship between melatonin and oxytocin that promotes contractions. Through human testing he determined that acute inhibition of melatonin lowers the incidence of nocturnal contractions. This is relevant to both preventing and inducing labor.
Further published research and ongoing human studies confirmed that exposing a pregnant woman to a light source during sleeping hours can inhibit the secretion of melatonin and thereby reduce and/or eliminate contractions.
Beesley S, Lee J, and J Olcese. 2015. Circadian clock regulation of melatonin MTNR1B receptor expression in human myometrial smooth muscle cells. Molecular Human Reproduction (in press)
Olcese J. and S. Beesley. 2014 The clinical significance of melatonin receptors in the human myometrium. Fertility and Sterility 102:329-335
Olcese J, Lozier S. and C. Paradise. 2012 Melatonin and the timing of human parturition. Reprod. Sci 20: 168-174
Sharkey J., Cable C. and J. Olcese. 2010 Melatonin sensitizes human myometrial cells to oxytocin in a PKCα/ERK-dependent manner. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metabol. 95: 2902-2908
Sharkey J., Puttaramu R., Word R.A. and J. Olcese. 2009 Melatonin synergizes with oxytocin to enhance contractility of human myometrial smooth muscle cells. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metabol. 94: 421-427
Sharkey J. and J. Olcese. 2007 Transcriptional inhibition of oxytocin receptor expression in human myometrial cells by melatonin involves protein kinase C signaling. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metabol. 92: 4015-19
Steffens F., Zhou X-B., Sausbier U., Motejlek K., Knaus H-G., Ruth P., Olcese J., Korth M. and T. Wieland. 2003 Melatonin receptor signalling in pregnant and non-pregnant rat uterine
myocytes as probed by BKCa channel activity. Molec. Endocrinology 17(10): 2103-2115.
Schlabritz-Loutsevitch N., Hellner N., Middendorf R., Müller D. and J. Olcese. 2003 The human myometrium as a target for melatonin. J. Clin. Endocrinol. Metabol. 88: 908-913.