Researchers studying pigmentation in mice have come up with a skin treatment that not only causes sunless tanning in skin, but could also mimic the ability of dark skin to counter the effects of ultraviolet rays and protect against cancer.
Skin cancer is a particular danger for fair-skinned people, many of whom have a defect in a hormonal pathway that leads to production of the skin pigment melanin. David Fisher and his colleagues report, in a paper to be published in the 21 September 2006 issue of Nature (Vol. 443, No. 7109, pp. 340-344), that the defective pigmentation pathway can be restored in genetically engineered, fair-skinned mice by direct application of the plant-derived compound forskolin to the skin.
What is more, the resulting skin pigmentation helped to ward off the DNA damage expected by subsequent exposure to ultraviolet radiation, which can lead to cancer. If the findings can be reproduced in humans, the treatment could give fair-skinned people the chance to avoid sun damage without having to avoid the sunshine.
David E Fisher (Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston, MA, USA)
(C) Nature press release.
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