A “super melanin” miracle skin cream has the ability to continuously heal sunburn and chemical burns, according to a new study.
The synthetic melanin cream, developed by researchers in the United States, can be utilized to protect the wearer’s skin whilst simultaneously repairing damage and accelerating healing.
The non-toxic, clear cream could even be used in the future to treat cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy due to its regenerative qualities.
The promising study, published in the journal Nature npj Regenerative Medicine, is pipped to revolutionize skincare treatment in the near future.
Scientists from Northwestern University, in Chicago, developed the cream through a series of tests by mimicking the natural melanin present in human skin.
Melanin in humans and animals provides pigmentation to the skin, eyes and hair and protects cells from sun damage by providing increased pigmentation in response to sunlight – the process commonly referred to as tanning.
The new synthetic melanin cream can be applied to injured or damaged skin, where it will accelerate the healing process.
When applied as a cream, this ‘super melanin’ can both protect skin from sun exposure whilst also healing skin injured by sun damage or chemical burns.
The new-age technology behind the cream works by herding ‘free radicals’; molecular species capable of independent existence that contain an unpaired electron in an atomic orbital, which are produced by injured skin after incurring injuries such as sunburn.
Melanin naturally scavenges free radicals in response to damaging environmental pollution from industrial activities and vehicle exhaust fumes.
Left unchecked, free radical activity damages cells in the skin and could ultimately result in skin cancer or aging.
Dr. Kurt Lu, a Professor of Dermatology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine dermatologist, said people don’t realize how damaging constant exposure to the sun can be.
Our skin also ages naturally over time and due to external environmental factors including environmental pollution.
“People don’t think of their everyday life as an injury to their skin,” Dr. Lu, the study’s co-author, explained.
“If you walk barefaced every day in the sun, you suffer a low-grade, constant bombardment of ultraviolet light.
“This is worsened during peak mid-day hours and the summer season.
“We know sun-exposed skin ages versus skin protected by clothing, which doesn’t show age nearly as much.
“All those insults to the skin lead to free radicals, which cause inflammation and break down the collagen.
“That’s one of the reasons older skin looks very different from younger skin.”
The Northwestern University team developed the synthetic melanin-engineered nanoparticles and modified the structure to have a higher capacity for scavenging free radicals.
Nathan Gianneschi, a Professor of Chemistry, Materials Science & Engineering, Biomedical Engineering and Pharmacology at Northwestern University and another co-author of the study, elaborated on why the team referred to their invention as ‘super melanin’.
“The synthetic melanin is capable of scavenging more radicals per gram compared to human melanin,” Prof Gianneschi said.
“It’s like super melanin. It’s biocompatible, degradable, nontoxic and clear when rubbed onto the skin.
“In our studies, it acts as an efficient sponge; removing damaging factors and protecting the skin.”
The Northwestern team, which has been researching melanin for nearly a decade as part of research programs funded by the US Department of Defense and the National Institutes of Health, first tested their synthetic melanin as a suncream.
They discovered that not only did the cream protect the skin and skin cells from damage from the sun, but it also accelerated the healing of damaged skin.
“It protected the skin and skin cells from damage,” Prof. Gianneschi explained.
“Next, we wondered if the synthetic melanin, which functions primarily to soak up radicals, could be applied topically after a skin injury and have a healing effect on the skin.
“It turns out to work exactly that way.”
Dr. Lu envisages the cream to be used as a multi-purpose suncream booster for added protection, as well as an enhanced moisturizer to foster skin repair and even as a potential aid for blisters and sores.
“You could put it on before you go out in the sun and after you have been in the sun,” he said.
“In both cases, we showed a reduction in skin damage and inflammation. You are protecting the skin and repairing it simultaneously. It’s continuous repair.”
The researchers found that in absorbing the potentially harmful free radicals following an injury, the miracle cream also served to quieten the immune system.
The stratum corneum – the outer surface layer of mature skin cells – communicates with the epidermis below and receives signals both from the body and the outside world.
By calming the destructive inflammation at that surface, the body can begin healing instead of becoming even more inflamed.
“The epidermis and the upper layers are in communication with the entire body,” Dr Lu said.
“This means that stabilizing those upper layers can lead to a process of active healing.”
In testing their cream, the scientists used a chemical to create a blistering reaction to a human skin tissue sample in a petri dish which became inflamed, much like a reaction to contact with poison ivy.
A few hours later, they then applied their melanin cream to the injured skin.
Within the first few days after application, the cream brought on an immune response by initially helping the skin’s own radical scavenging enzymes to recover, and then by halting the production of inflammatory proteins.
This initiated a cascade of responses which brought greatly increased rates of healing, including the preservation of healthy skin layers underneath.
Samples that did not have the melanin cream treatment applied, meanwhile, persisted in their blistering.
“The treatment has the effect of setting the skin on a cycle of healing and repair, orchestrated by the immune system,” Dr Lu observed.
In other studies for the US Department of Defence, Northwestern researchers have also looked at melanin as a dye for clothing that would also act as an absorbent for toxins in the environment – particularly nerve gas.
They have previously shown it’s possible to dye a military uniform black with the super melanin, which would absorb nerve gas.
The melanin is also capable of absorbing heavy metals and toxins, and the team are now pursuing clinical translation and trials testing the efficacy of the synthetic melanin cream.
However, in an initial step, scientists recently completed a trial that showed the synthetic melanins are non-irritating to human skin.
And, given observations that melanin can protect biological tissue from high-energy radiation, the researchers also hope that the cream could be used in the future as an effective treatment for skin burns from radiation exposure.
The researchers added that the cream could even be used to one day provide treatment options for cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker
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