JUN 14, 2017 01:40 PM PDT

Scientists May Have Perfected 'Tan-in-a-Bottle'

WRITTEN BY: Xuan Pham

Looking for a realistic tan but don’t want to risk burning or skin cancer? Well here’s the best two-for-one deal of the century: Scientists have created a drug that actually tricks the skin into tanning naturally while also making skin less sensitive to UV radiation caused by the sun.

Image credit: Pixabay.com

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation is the leading cause of skin cancer, also known as melanoma. To prevent this, doctors often advise people to avoid tanning beds, and always apply sun protection factor (SPF) when going outside. But people are generally quite bad at following this advice - just take a look at any beach and you’ll be bound to find a few sun-worshippers and sunscreen rebels.

To help lower the risk of melanoma induced by the sun, researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital developed a drug that mimics the sun’s rays to induce skin to produce melanin - a pigment molecule that acts like natural sunscreen.

"It has a potent darkening effect,” said Dr. David Fisher, one of the researchers of the study. "Under the microscope it's the real melanin, it really is activating the production of pigment in a UV-independent fashion."

For people who are enamoured with a tanned complexion, this is absolutely the real deal. Tans delivered by “fake bakes” and other artificial tanners are more like skin “paint” - it coats the surface of the skin with a temporary color. By contrast, the drug stimulates the body to actually produce melanin to darken the skin. This would have the effect of being more natural-looking and longer-lasting. And this is achieved without exposing the body to harmful radiation from the sun or tanning beds.

But make no mistake about it - the team did not set out to create the best natural-looking tan. Rather, they were motivated to protect the skin from cancer. "Our real goal is a novel strategy for protecting skin from UV radiation and cancer,” said Dr. Fisher.

And people with more melanin pigment seemed to be more protected from the cancer effects of sun radiation. Think about your fair-skinned friends who burn way too easily in the sun, even if they’ve slathered on sunscreen. The drug could provide a means for these people, even redheads, to have an extra source of protection from the sun. "Dark pigment is associated with a lower risk of all forms of skin cancer - that would be really huge,” Dr. Fisher said.

But gingers who want to sign up for the drug will have to wait. The drug has to undergo more testing to reveal any hidden health consequences. For example, if the drug affects melanin in the skin, could it also affect melanin in other parts of the body, such as the eyes or hair color? On the flip side, further testing could reveal other benefits of having skin-deep sun protection, such as anti-aging properties.

Additional source: BBC

About the Author
  • I am a human geneticist, passionate about telling stories to make science more engaging and approachable. Find more of my writing at the Hopkins BioMedical Odyssey blog and at TheGeneTwist.com.
You May Also Like
AUG 01, 2018
Cell & Molecular Biology
AUG 01, 2018
Levels of One Molecule, LAC, can Diagnose Depression
Depression can be hard to classify and therefore, challenging to treat. New work could help change that....
AUG 22, 2018
Clinical & Molecular DX
AUG 22, 2018
New Clinical Assay Useful For Urothelial Cancer
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has now approved a pharmDx assay called ‘Dako PD-L1 IHC 22C3’ by Agilent Technologies Inc. for use in u...
SEP 15, 2018
Clinical & Molecular DX
SEP 15, 2018
Cancer & Anoikis: A Match Not Made in Heaven
Anoikis have always been intimately entwined with cancer, henceforth the quest to seek how they came to be as such....
SEP 29, 2018
Microbiology
SEP 29, 2018
In a First, Rat Variation of Hepatitis E Found in a Person
It was found in a 56-year-old Hong Kong man....
NOV 17, 2018
Genetics & Genomics
NOV 17, 2018
Joubert Syndrome Model Successfully Treated with Gene-editing
A life-threatening kidney disease may be one day be a treatable condition thanks to new work by researchers, and patients with the illness....
DEC 05, 2018
Videos
DEC 05, 2018
Male Contraceptive Gel is in Clinical Trials
Researchers have started a clinical trial involving 420 participants to test the efficacy of a male contraceptive gel....
Loading Comments...