Melanin applied in cream form can protect the skin from sunlight and heal chemical burns. (Photo: Popular Science)
JAKARTA – Wounds on the surface of the skin due to various reasons such as sunburn or fire burns will heal more quickly in the future.
Scientists at Northwestern University have developed synthetic melanin that can speed up the healing of human skin. This melanin is applied in cream form and can protect the skin from sunlight and heal chemical burns.
Reporting from Popular Science, Saturday (4/11/2023), these findings were explained in a study published in the journal Nature NPJ Regenerative Medicine.
What is melanin?
Melanin is a pigment produced naturally in humans and animals. Melanin provides color to hair, eyes and skin. The function of this substance is to protect skin cells from sun damage by increasing pigmentation in response to sunlight, a process commonly called sunbathing. “People don’t think about their daily lives as injuries to the skin,” said study co-author and dermatologist Kurt Lu.
If you do outdoor activities without protecting your body from exposure to sunlight every day, your skin will receive continuous exposure to ultraviolet rays. This is exacerbated during midday and summer peak hours. Skin exposed to the sun will age compared to skin protected by clothing or a hat, which does not show as many signs of aging.
Aging of the skin is also caused by factors such as increasing age and environmental pollution. Sun damage, chronological aging, and environmental pollutants can create unstable oxygen molecules called free radicals.
These molecules can cause inflammation and break down collagen in the skin. This is one reason why older skin looks so different from younger skin.
In this study, the researchers used synthetic melanin designed with nanoparticles. They modify the structure of melanin so that it has a higher free radical scavenging capacity.
The researchers used chemicals to create a blistering reaction on samples of human skin tissue in a dish. Then the researchers waited several hours, and applied topical melanin cream to the injured skin. This cream facilitates the immune response in the first few days, by initially helping the skin’s free radical scavenging enzymes recover.
A series of subsequent responses occur in which healing is accelerated, including preservation of the healthy skin layer beneath the top layer. Synthetic melanin cream absorbs free radicals and calms the immune system. In comparison, blistering remained in control samples that did not receive melanin cream treatment.
“Synthetic melanin is capable of scavenging more radicals per gram compared to human melanin,” said study co-author and biomedical chemist Nathan Gianneschi in a statement.
“It’s like super melanin. It is biocompatible, degradable, non-toxic, and transparent when rubbed onto the skin. In our study, it acted like an efficient sponge, removing harmful factors and protecting the skin.”
According to the team, super melanin stays on the surface of the skin after application and is not absorbed into the layers beneath it. It regulates the skin’s healing and repair cycle directed by the immune system.