Top 10 Facts About Melanin

The price of melanin, the aromatic biopolymer and organic semiconductor that makes Black people black is over $350 a gram more than gold. Since we learned melanin is so valuable it came to our awareness that a number of myths about melanin have been spread.

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 ten facts about melanin in the hopes that they will assist in separating fact from fiction.

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  1. Melanin is an aromatic biopolymer.
  2. Melanin is an organic semiconductor. A melanin bistable switch was manufactured in 1974. The three melanin 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 three types of melanin: eumelanin, pheomelanin and allomelanin. Eumelanin and pheomelanin is 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. Melanin protects living things from 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. The price of Melanin is over $350 a gram more than gold. The melanin harvested from the ink of Sepia Officinalis, the common cuttlefish is the same as all melanin in the living kingdom.
  1. There are over 258,000 scholarly articles involving melanin.
  2. It takes millions of years for melanin to decay. Fossil melanin has been found in 160-million year old fossil ink sacs, fossil feathers, fossil skin and fossil fish eyes.
  3. The molecular structure of melanin is unknown. Spectroscopic analysis uses light to differentiate the structure of molecules.
  4. Melanin in human skin and the choroid coat of the eye 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.
  5. Melanin is the fountain of youth.  It keeps skin looking young.
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

More facts on melanin thanks to Afrikan Centered Education:

“…melanin is capable of acting as an electron transfer agent in several reduction-oxidation systems.”
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/0003986176903040

“In individuals with dark skin the high melanin concentration in the epidermis absorbs high energies…”
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16020204

“…melanin absorbs light at a wide range of wavelengths, from 250 nm to 1200 nm…”
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2825126/

“Melanin pigment [is present] in liver and heart tissue…”
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/870326

“…resistance to multiple sclerosis and experimental autoimmune encephalomyelitis is associated with dark skin pigmentation”
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8748085

“The melanin of natural animal origin has the anti-radial effectiveness […] increasing the number of alive newborn descendants…”
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15700809

“Melanocyte-stimulating hormone increases in humans during pregnancy. This, along with increased estrogens, causes increased pigmentation in pregnant women.”
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melanocyte-stimulating_hormone

“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.”
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21632287

“…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
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1342018

“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://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.”
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11419954

“…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.”
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10218640

“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.”
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/511435

“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.”
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17083485

“…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 melanin, locus coeruleus melanin, retinal pigmented epithelium or ocular melanin, inner-ear melanin, and so on). Ocular melanin 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).”
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15949901

Melanin directly converts light for vertebrate metabolic use: dark human skin.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18479839

Antioxidant properties of melanin in retinal pigment epithelial cells.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16613501

Melanin Pigments in Human Pineal Gland
http://www.indmedica.com/journals.php?journalid=8&issueid=32&articleid=379&action=article

Melanin protects choroidal blood vessels against light toxicity.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16869503

Melanin protects melanocytes and keratinocytes against H2O2-induced DNA strand breaks through its ability to bind Ca2+.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14980501

Neuromelanin of the substantia nigra: a neuronal black hole with protective and toxic characteristics.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14585596

Sound needs sound melanocytes to be heard.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10614574

The Expanding Role and Presence of Neuromelanins in the Human Brain
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2791353/

The melanin system protects cells against against irradiation
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9670752