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article imageNew skin tanning method without UV light

By Tim Sandle     Jun 15, 2017 in Health
A new method for tanning skin without the need to expose skin to the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation (as found with sun-lamps and tanning salons) has been devised.
The new process has been devised by Dr. David Fisher, chief of Massachusetts General Hospital’s department of dermatology. The process involves increasing pigmentation in human skin without the damaging effects of ultraviolet radiation.
This method not only reduces the risk of skin cancer that might arise from repeatedly exposing the skin to ultraviolet light, it aids a growing social problem where some people become addicted to tanning their skin. The feeling of euphoria that some people take from the tanning process has been marked as equivalent to the feelings that some obtain from opiate drugs. This is because a proopiomelanocortin peptide called β-endorphin is synthesized in skin. This leads to elevated blood plasma levels, even after low-dose ultraviolet light exposure. In turn this leads to increases in pain-related thresholds as would occur following a dose of opiates.
The new process builds on previous research which identified the molecular pathways underlying the tanning response. This involves the use of a topical compound called forskolin to trigger tanning. Forskolin functions to activate a protein further down the pigmentation pathway, bypassing the interruption and inducing production of the protective dark pigment called eumelanin.
This experimental work led to animal studies where the researchers induced tanning in red-haired mice; the rodents do not normally produce the protective, dark form of melanin. This was followed by studies on human skin samples. However, this was not successful due to human skin being far thicker. The researchers then looked at salt-inducible kinase, which regulate transcription of a protein further down the pigmentation pathway. On the human skin samples these induce significant darkening following eight days of daily, topical administration.
Biochemical studies confirmed the activation of the tanning and pigmentation pathway by the new class of small molecules, and that this was physiologically identical to ultraviolet light induced pigmentation. This occurred without the DNA-damaging effects of ultraviolet light.
Before the product is commercialized further safety studies will be required understand the actions of the agents. The research has been published in the journal Cell Reports. The research is titled “A UV-Independent Topical Small-Molecule Approach for Melanin Production in Human Skin.”
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