Top 10 Facts About Melanin

Melanin is a chemical, chemicals have a dollar value, what is the dollar value of melanin? The price of melanin, the aromatic biopolymer and organic semiconductor that makes Black people black is over $380 a gram more than gold. Since we learned melanin is so valuable it came to our awareness a number of myths about melanin have been spread. This blog post is an effort to counter those myths with the top 10 facts about melanin.

In a previous post we identified what we consider the top 10 myths about melanin. In the interest of Maat or justice we present the top 10 facts about melanin in hopes they will assist in separating fact from fiction.

Top 10 Facts About Melanin

Melanin bistable switch
  1. It is an aromatic bio polymer.
  2. It is an organic semiconductor. A melanin bistable switch was manufactured in 1974. The three samples used came from mushroom tyrosinase acted on by tyrosine for 4 days, autoxidation of l-dopa in 1 liter of NaOH (sodium hydroxide) for one week and isolation of melanin extracted from human melanoma tumor.
  3. There are actually three types of melanin: eumelanin, pheomelanin and allomelanin. Eumelanin and pheomelanin are primarily found in vertebrates, fungi and microorganisms. Eumelanin is brown and black. Pheomelanin is red and yellow. Allomelanin is brown and black, also. Eumelanin and pheomelanin are found in animal fur, bird feathers, fish scales, insect chitin, and microorganisms. Allomelanin is found in plants and fungus like Aspergillus niger.
  4. It protects living things from environmental insults such as radiation, including UV radiation, and also extreme temperature. It is used by radiotrophic fungi to convert radiation into chemical energy. Wangiella dermatitidis and Cryptococcus neoformans grow faster when exposed to ionizing radiation. The radiation increases the metabolic activity of the cells.
  5. Melanin is worth over $441 a gram more than gold. It is harvested from the ink of Sepia Officinalis, the common cuttlefish. Sepia melanin is the same molecule as all melanin in the living kingdom.
  1. There are over 258,000 scholarly articles involving melanin in some way, shape, form, or fashion.
  2. Millions of years pass before it begins to decay. Fossil melanin has been found in 160-million year old fossil ink sacs, fossil feathers, fossil skin and fossil fish eyes.
  3. Its molecular structure is unknown. Spectroscopic analysis uses radiation including light to differentiate the structure of molecules. Melanin absorbs radiation as mentioned above. Light is electromagnetic radiation, just like UV radiation is. Spectroscopy is incapable of producing a molecular analysis of melanin because it absorbs the energy used in the process.
  4. In human skin and the choroid coat of the eye melanin is produced by a specialized cell known as a melanocyte. The melanocyte originates in a part of the embryo known as the neural crest. Other cells in the body produce melanin but do not originate in the neural crest. The neural crest cells also contribute neurons to the peripheral nervous system. The choroid coat was first considered to consist of the substance known as melanin by Jöns Jacob Berzelius in volume 9 of his 1840 book Lehrbuch der Chemie.
Melanin was first observed by Marcello Malpighi and documented in his 1666 book De externo tactus organo
Title page of Marcello Malpighi’s De Externo Tactus Organo Anatomica Observatio where he documented the observation of rete mucosum, the so-called mucus layer of human skin which was later identified as melanin.
  1. Melanin was first observed under a primitive microscope by Marcelo Malpighi as documented in his 1665 work, “De Externo Tactus Organo Anatomica Observario.” For nearly 200 years it was believed that the “rete mucosum” was a layer of mucus which resulted from the alleged “scorching effects of the sun.”
sepia melanin granules
SEM micrographs of sepia melanin granules at 1.00K X (a), 10.00K X (b), 20.00 K X (c) and 50.00 K X (d) magnifications. From Morphological and Chemical Composition Characterization of Commercial Sepia Melanin

Melanin in human skin

It is the fountain of youth.  It keeps skin looking young. Melanin was first observed as the chemical giving human skin its color in July 1896 by Abel and Davis. They identified the chemical in human skin as being the same chemical in the choroid coat of the eye and the ink of sepia officinalis.

More facts about melanin from African Centered Education

We have more than the top 10 facts about melanin thanks to Afrikan Centered Education:

“…is capable of acting as an electron transfer agent in several reduction-oxidation systems.”

“In individuals with dark skin the high melanin concentration in the epidermis absorbs high energies…”

“…absorbs light at a wide range of wavelengths, from 250 nm to 1200 nm…”

“…[is present] in liver and heart tissue…”

“…resistance to multiple sclerosis and experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis is associated with dark skin pigmentation”

“…has the anti-radial effectiveness […] increasing the number of alive newborn descendants…”

“Melanocyte-stimulating hormone increases in humans during pregnancy. This, along with increased estrogens, causes increased pigmentation in pregnant women.”

“The presence of melanin pigments in organisms is implicated in radioprotection and in some cases, enhanced growth in the presence of high levels of ionizing radiation.”

“…the incidence of pineal calcification, which reflects the secretory activity of the gland, is significantly lower in the African and American black populations as compared to the white population.” —Albert Einstein College of Medicine

“Melanin and hemoglobin strongly absorb light in the ultraviolet (UV) and visible ranges and they present low absorption in the near-infrared range. Melanin in particular has a photoprotective action because of its light absorption properties (Kollias et al, 1991).” http://web.archive.org/web/2015*/http://www.nature.com/jid/journal/v117/n6/full/5601313a.html

“Evidence is presented that melanization of skin and other tissues forms an important component of the innate immune defense system. A major function of melanocytes, melanosomes and melanin in skin is to inhibit the proliferation of bacterial, fungal and other parasitic infections of the dermis and epidermis.”

“…the eumelanin model had more reduced than oxidised groups accessible to reaction with the radicals.” “the free radical scavenging properties of melanin may be important in the protection of melanotic cells against free radical damage, particularly if the reactive radicals are generated in close proximity to the pigment granules.”

“Skin from black patients was associated with the cytoplasmic pattern of autofluorescence. Compared to lighter skin, black skin was also significantly associated with increased intensity of autofluorescence, indicating that autofluorescence of the epidermis parallels the clinical degree of pigmentation. Negro hair exhibited more fluorescence than Caucasian hair, and darker hair (brown to black) exhibited more fluorescence than lighter hair (blond). This may be related to melanin and it breakdown products.”

“With respect to the solid state properties of eumelanin, the current paradigm is that these systems are amorphous organic semiconductors. This model has been used to explain the rather unusual electrical conductivity and photoconductivity…” “Equally important for understanding biological functions of melanin is adequate characterization of its metal ion binding ability…” “Melanin is believed to be a photoprotective pigment. The protective action of melanin is related to its high efficiency to absorb and scatter photons, particularly the higher energy photons from the UV and blue part of the solar spectrum. As a result of ultrafast photodynamics, energy of the absorbed photons is rapidly and efficiently converted into heat.” “…melanin has been shown to be a powerful antioxidant.”

“…neuromelanin is not homogeneous, as is commonly accepted, but is made up of different substrate specific black pigments formed by the oxidation of o.diphenols or other oxygenated precursors (substantia nigra …, locus coeruleus …, retinal pigmented epithelium or ocular …, inner-ear …, and so on). Ocular … is believed to protect the eye by trapping metals and free radicals.” “Skin and ocular melanin are chemically different. However, they are both involved in light absorption/dissipation. The black particle structure (melanin cage) is believed to be fundamental to this process because there is a common bioelectric mechanism.” “…it is stressed that intracellular melanogenesis is a fundamental and genetically controlled physiological process. It has been repeatedly claimed that the binding of iron, heavy metals, free radicals and harmful chemicals by substantia nigra melanin is fundamental to body detoxification/protection.” “…substantia nigra melanin acts as semiconductor, transmitting and modulating nervous impulses, in a reversible way. In fact, substantia nigra melanin is absent or significantly scarce in two conditions of life in which the coordination of movement is either inefficient (newborn babies) or strongly compromised (Parkinson).”

…directly converts light for vertebrate metabolic use: dark human skin.

Antioxidant properties of melanin in retinal pigment epithelial cells.

Melanin Pigments in Human Pineal Gland

…protects choroidal blood vessels against light toxicity.

protects melanocytes and keratinocytes against H2O2-induced DNA strand breaks through its ability to bind Ca2+.

Neuromelanin of the substantia nigra: a neuronal black hole with protective and toxic characteristics.

Sound needs sound melanocytes to be heard.

The Expanding Role and Presence of Neuromelanins in the Human Brain

The melanin system protects cells against against irradiation

By Nnamdi Azikiwe

The Mhotep Corporation uses its Keyamsha The Awakening brand to heighten perceptions and expand awareness. By producing content that engages, entertains and educates we create value for value relationships with our audience for mutual benefit. Mhotep is derived from the name of the architect and builder of the first pyramid in Kemet, so-called ancient Egypt. I formed the Mhotep Corporation in 2003 to produce and distribute 3D animation videos based on traditional African stories. Since then it has evolved to being a media production company including books. In a previous life I worked as a systems analyst developing solutions for government and multinational organizations. Born and educated in Washington, D.C. I have traveled to several places including Haiti, the Bahamas, Mexico, Canada, Nigeria (several times), Ethiopia (several times), Benin, Togo, and South Africa. I am married with three children.

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