New 'real sun-tan' drug may help prevent cancer

Jane Richards
June 14, 2017

The drug also generates protective tans in red-haired mice, which-like their human counterparts - are more susceptible to skin cancer via ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

The new compound, which would work in conjunction with sunscreen, offers a temporary boost in melanin production - the pigment that gives human skin, hair, and eyes their colour. But we've found that the picture is more complicated, that red-blonde pigments are also more intrinsically carcinogenic, whereas dark melanin is intrinsically beneficial if not produced through use of risky UV injury to skin. This takes a while, so the tan lasts a week or so, just like a sun-induced tan. But because human skin is relatively hairless compared to animals', it has evolved to be much tougher in order to protect against heat, cold and other environmental factors, and the topical substance could not penetrate it effectively. Then they discovered how to use a topical compound to manipulate those pathways and induce a tan in mice.

The drug would be applied on to the skin in a lotion form causing the skin to produce the melanin without the harmful UV radiation that typically triggers its production.

The new drug is rubbed into the skin to skip the damage and kick-start the process of making melanin. One of their compounds made a brown splotch, indicating that it was able to reach the melanocytes in the skin and spur melanin production, the team reports today in Cell Reports.

Darker skin may block harmful UV radiation, Fisher said.

But there was one problem.

Scientists have come up with a drug that could help people tan without exposure to the sun.

Now, a decade later, the researchers have come up with a solution that they think will actually work on us - a different class of compounds that cannot only boost the pigmentation process, but also squeeze through the outer layers of our epidermis.

During testing, application of the drug on ginger mice saw them turn jet black within two days, before fading a week later.

Now, researchers at DFCI together with Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a new class of small molecule SIK inhibitors that are optimized to penetrate the thicker human skin and induce the expression of a gene called MITF.

So, when can we have it? Along with reducing the risk of cancer, it could also give a golden glow to your skin.

We can't wait to see where this research goes next.

Unfortunately, we'll have to wait some time before we know that this compound can be turned into a marketable product - while the results have been very positive on human skin samples in the lab, we'll need to see them replicated in human trials to ensure that it's safe and effective.

"Sunscreen is extremely important; there definitely is protection, but [its] efficacy in melanoma and basal cell carcinoma is surprisingly and frustratingly incomplete", Fisher told The Guardian.

Other reports by VgToday

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