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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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The tan induced by the application of the compound, however, fades in time. The half-life of the compound in mice is two weeks, which according to Fisher, is similar to the rate of a tan’s fading in most humans.
In determining whether the compound will be safe for human use, an important challenge is the delivery of the drug. “The biology appears to operate in a similar way to human skin, although additional work is ongoing. So far, we believe that a major difference between the tan in mice and in humans is structural: human skin is thicker, and it is essential to deliver the drug to the appropriate cells,” said Fisher. Testing on human skin samples is underway. Fisher believes that the compound’s chemical structure could remain more stable in human skin and therefore, the tan could last longer.
A Look Ahead
Fisher looks to the future of the compound as a potentially safe tanning method. The researchers must first determine that the compound is safe for human exposure. “Formal toxicology studies have not been done,” said Fisher, who plans to accomplish toxicity studies in the near future. Once human safety is determined, Fisher believes the process will help numerous individuals. “Any condition of photosensitivity is likely to be better tolerated with this kind of strategy, though careful studies will be necessary to examine the degree of safety and benefit,” said Fisher. He also added that the incidence of skin cancer could be diminished, if the compound is proven safe for human use and substituted in place of UV light exposure. Fisher hopes that, if the compound is determined safe, the sunless induction of pigmentation could impact public health in two ways: 1) direct protection of the skin; and 2) diminished sunseeking behavior.