Early drug tests show a boost in melanin without the sun
A method that gives mice a tan without using ultraviolet radiation now works in human skin samples. It’s an early step in developing a lotion or cream that might provide fair-skinned folk with protection against skin cancer.
As reported June 13 in Cell Reports, a topical drug penetrated and tanned laboratory samples of live human skin, absent the sun. Unlike self-tanning lotions that essentially stain skin brown and provide minimal sun protection, the drug activates the production of the dark form of the skin pigment melanin, which absorbs UV radiation and diminishes damage to skin cells.
The team behind this study had worked with a different drug, the plant extract forskolin, in a 2006 study. The researchers used mice with skin like that of red-haired, fair-skinned people, who don’t tan because of a nonfunctioning protein on the surface of the skin cells that make melanin.