Scientists are developing a risk-free sun tan drug

Credit: Cover Media

Credit: Cover Media



When the warm weather hits, people flock to the beach for a swim and a little sun.

But time outdoors can lead to painful sunburn and the potential growth of skin cancers.

However, scientists in the U.S. have developed a drug that mimics sunlight to make the skin tan, with no damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation involved.

Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital have created molecules that successfully penetrate and darken human skin samples in the lab and tested the drug on red-haired mice, which -like their human counterparts – are more susceptible to skin cancer via UV radiation.

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“Human skin is a very good barrier and is a formidable penetration challenge, therefore other topical approaches just did not work,” said senior author Professor David E. Fisher, who led the earlier studies on the topic. “But 10 years later, we have come up with a solution. It’s a different class of compounds, that work by targeting a different enzyme that converges on the same pathway that leads to pigmentation.”

In a report, the researchers claim that the artificial tans last for days. And when applied to the red-haired mice, they could become almost jet black in a day or two with a strong enough dose.

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“The colour fades away over time as normal skin cells to slough off the surface, and skin tone gets back to normal within a week or so,” they explained.

Professor Fisher also stated there is potential for the drug to be used as a means of skin cancer prevention in the future and that the long-term goal of his research is to create something that could be used in combination with traditional UV-absorbing sunscreens.

However, he admitted more preclinical tests need to be done before it is proven safe in humans.

The full study has been published in journal Cell Reports.

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