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Scientists invented a synthetic melanin that speeds up healing and stops sunburn

Published Nov 2nd, 2023 3:40PM EDT
skin, close-up of skin with melanin in it
Image: PixieMe / Adobe

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A group of researchers working at Northwestern University have developed a new “super melanin” that has a plethora of possible uses. The new research is published in the journal npj Regenerative Medicine. According to the new study, the synthetic melanin was shown to reduce or even prevent damage from UV radiation in both mice and donated human skin samples.

Obviously, the potential of such a super melanin is versatile, which the researchers highlight in their study. In both scenarios that the researchers tested – which saw the melanin-treated skin exposed to toxic chemicals and UV radiation — the exposed skin survived the encounter with little to no lasting damage.

The synthetic melanin appears to have saved the skin by sucking up the damaging free radicals that were generated within the skin by the chemicals and UV radiation. This helped reduce inflammation and sped up the healing process in any damaged areas that the skin experienced.

What is even more intriguing about this super melanin is that it seems to very closely resemble natural melanin, which means it is both biodegradable and nontoxic to the skin, at least in experiments so far. It doesn’t appear to be absorbed by the body when it is applied, which reduces a lot of potential safety risks, the researchers say.

The ability to apply as much melanin as needed to the affected skin area is certainly a boon for the new treatment, and while it has shown a lot of promise, the researchers say it will probably be months, if not years, before the synthetic melanin is readily available as a medical treatment. 

For now, the researchers are busy conducting animal research to confirm the solution’s safety further. But, if that goes according to plan, and future human trials are successful, too, the melanin treatment will move on to scaling and full public release. Other skin treatment options could also help push this area of medicine further, like gene therapy that can heal wounds from years ago.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.

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