Are Scientists currently looking into this?

  • $\begingroup$ Where do you want to increase eumelanin, in the skin? And why would you do so? $\endgroup$ – Chris May 7 '14 at 9:09
  • $\begingroup$ I read that it is more efficient in protecting against skin cancer. I have also read that you usually cant increase Eumelanin without increasing Pheomelanin. Is there a way? $\endgroup$ – Liam May 7 '14 at 9:14
  • $\begingroup$ Please edit your question to include those details (where, why,...) for future readers , as they will then be more likely to attempt an answer. $\endgroup$ – Armatus May 8 '14 at 9:19

I doubt that this will be really successful, since the synthesis is rather complex and can be influenced (positively and negatively) in many ways. First, the synthesis pathways looks roughly like this:

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The first step is identical for both melanin forms, it is the conversion of the amino acid tyrosine into dopaquinone by the enzyme tyrosinase. The next steps are different for each process and only one of the possibilities can happen at any given time. The decision is done by the availibility of the necessary components. When the cysteine concentration in the cell is high, the pathway goes exclusively into the direction of pheomelanin, only when the cyteine concentration is lower than 0,76µM eumelanin is made (see here and here for details).

But this is not the only influence on the reaction. The availibility of dopaquinone is critical, and the activity of the tyrosinase can be influenced by the pH of the melanosome (the compartiment in which the pigment production takes place). The tyrosinase activity for people with dark skin is about 10 times higher than for people with pale skin (see here and here for details). The difference here is mainly the pH, which is neutral for dark skinned people and acidic for pale.

Then there is of course the availibity of tyrosine (which is less of a problem, as this amino acid is not essential) and also the availibity and activity of downstream enzymes for the eumelanin production as tyrosinase-related protein 1 and dopachrome tautomerase.

  • $\begingroup$ Thank you Chris, very interesting. I am guessing that there isn't a way to naturally reduce the amount of Cysteine (to increase the chance of producing Eumelanin) or influencing the pH to neutral? $\endgroup$ – Liam May 7 '14 at 9:47
  • $\begingroup$ I don't think so. $\endgroup$ – Chris May 7 '14 at 9:52
  • $\begingroup$ Is this a "no goer" on any level then? Surely if we can increase Eumelanin we can increase the efficiency against skin cancers. $\endgroup$ – Liam May 7 '14 at 10:41
  • $\begingroup$ Is there a way to take an Eumelanin supplement? $\endgroup$ – Liam May 7 '14 at 10:42
  • $\begingroup$ I wouldn't say it is completely impossible, but it will be difficult. And the question is, if it is wise to do so. You have to mess around in some pretty fine balanced pathways and nobody knows what side effects this could have. Using sun protection and/or avoid to short clothes in the sun works as well and is non-interventive. If you supplement melanin with the food it will most likely be metabolized. $\endgroup$ – Chris May 7 '14 at 10:45

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