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In Sight: A Direct Connection to Melanocytes
By: Katie Schaefer, Cosmetics & Toiletries
Posted: December 28, 2006, from the January 2007 issue of Cosmetics & Toiletries.
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“Forskolin is simply the first drug we chose to test. This portion of the pathway has many drugs that are capable of activating it. The first one is rarely the best one,” added Fisher. Researchers reportedly are in the process of systematically testing and optimizing different drugs. According to Fisher, they have not yet concluded which drugs are both effective and safe for human use.
Red-haired mice were chosen for the experiment. “We chose to use red-haired mice because they have a block on the surface protein of the melanocyte, which hinders their ability to tan,” said Fisher. The researchers hypothesized that the skin of the red-haired mice would become tan with repeated application.
Within a couple of days, the mice’s pigment darkened. “We examined the pigment in the skin of the red-haired mice and it was indistinguishable from the pigment in naturally darker-haired mice,” added Fisher, which demonstrated to the research team that they had found a way to increase pigment without UV exposure.
The researchers have been testing the compound in a variety of situations. They also are testing the compound to determine its safety. Part of this process includes testing to determine whether the compound helps to protect against sunburn, formation of DNA mutations or skin cancer.
“The red-haired mice were exposed to UV light and they exhibited the same protection as mice that were born black-haired,” added Fisher. The mice exposed to UV light that had been treated with the compound also had a decreased incidence of skin cancer. If this approach is determined to be effective and safe for human use, protection for fair-skinned individuals may be more easily achieved with the application of this topical treatment.