Melaninology: The study of melanin.

Melanin has been studied for centuries. Oddly, Black people, melanin people, African people, in general, know very little about the substance which causes their physical appearance. For us to truly know ourselves, and accurately perceive the world around us, the study of melanin must be paramount. We need to become experts in melaninology, which we define as the study of melanin, its uses, the metabolic processes which involve its production and functions. The proof of such need is in the current efforts to create all manner of myths, hoaxes, scams and legends regarding melanin. By seeking to know all there is to know about melanin, and disseminate that knowledge, we will deliberately and intentionally obliterate efforts to “deceive, inveigle and obfuscate” the truth about melanin.

What, then is melanin? Melanin is an aromatic biopolymer and organic semiconductor. It makes people black. It varies in color from red to black. It is currently worth over $350 a gram more than gold. There are primarily two types of melanin: pheomelanin and eumelanin. Pheomelanin comes in two colors, red and yellow. Eumelanin is brown and black. Mention has been made of a third type of melanin, so-called neuromelanin. The term appears to be a misnomer since all neuromelanin is actually eumelanin which serves some neurological function. Then there is allomelanin, a plant based form of melanin.

Melanin Molecule
Computed version of Melanin Molecule. The actual molecular structure of melanin is unknown. Melanin is a light harvesting substance. The current state of the art in spectroscopy involves projecting energy at a molecule. All forms of spectroscopy have proven fruitless in the analysis of melanin’s molecular structure to date.

Melanin occurs in various parts of the human body. In the eye, a layer beneath the outer white layer (the sclera,) known as the “choroid coat” is melanin filled. The choroid coat is responsible for absorbing light that does not pass into the lens of the eye. Melanin is also found in the inner ear. In the center of the brain, at its base, is a structure known as the substantia nigra. The substantia nigra is responsible for a major part of what makes us human in terms of our behavior and motor function. Locus coeruleus is another part of the brain which has melanin neurons. The most well known place where melanin can be found is in the largest organ of our bodies, the skin.

Melanin occurs in nature. It is responsible for the color of many creatures. Among these are included crows, Black Angus cattle, black cats, frogs. Insects such as beetles, flies, butterflies and crickets also contain melanin. For insects melanin is known to prevent freezing and drying out in colder climates. They lose melanin in hotter climates to prevent overheating.

Title page of Marcello Malpighi's De Externo Tactus Organo Anatomica Observatio
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.

The first study of the human skin under a microscope was done by Italian anatomist, Marcello Malpighi in 1665. Upon examining the cadaver of an “Ethiopian” Malpighi observed that the outer layer of skin (the “scarf” which we know as epidermis) and the underlying layer (called “cutis” now known as dermis) were separated in the subject by what he referred to as a “rete mucosum” or “mucus layer.” Malpighi’s research held for nearly 200 years regarding the notion of a three layered skin for humans. Unfortunately, his concept of the layers of human skin came to be proven false.

Current melanin research appears to have similar defects, resulting in some ideas being obfuscated due “consensus.” In addition, a deliberate effort is underway to impede the flow of information as it relates to melanin. Use of terms such as “people of color” or “persons of color” seem to either hinder awareness of melanin or indicate a lack of awareness.

The first prior usages of the term “melaninology” come from two sources. The 1998 edition of The Canadian Journal of Microbiology contains an article by Butler and Day: “Fungal melanins: a review,” wherein they caution the “melaninology neophyte” against “assuming that a fungal melanin is of DOPA origin” as part of their discussion on polyketide melanogenesis. They were exploring the nonmelanin-producing pathways in fungi and other organisms.  The second use was simply to state the definition outside of the field of study but in a context which is inclusive of the power to define. In Darrel Dawson’s 2014 book “Affairs of a Bowlers Heart,” he gives a list of words which were apparently in need of definition. He makes it clear that melaninology is “the study of melanin” but with caveat. By adding “to understand the Theology of Ausur (aka Ausar/Osiris), who we know as Osirus or Lord of the Perfect Black” Dawson takes melaninology into the area of theology. We neither argue against, nor, defend his definition.

As such, we propose the development of a field of study intending to standardize melanin research and the dissemination of knowledge regarding melanin. The field must necessarily include the having a knowledge base or background including chemistry, physics (including quantum physics), biology, neurology, endocrinology, and microbiology in addition to some other fields which we can not imagine at the moment.

The Institute for Melanin Research

Aspects of the standardization of melanin knowledge and research include a call to develop an independent Institute for Melanin Research. As there is not now such an institute we propose the development of a facility. The current state of research regarding melanin lacks focus. A great deal of the research at present defy a comprehensive standards based approach. A state of the art facility which uses disciplined scholarship to ascertain objective knowledge regarding melanin and maintain a database of such knowledge would help to expand the awareness of melanin and its actual characteristics.

Part of the work of the institute would be to establish Melaninology as an academic discipline. Emphasis on melanin as it relates to biology, genetics, anthropology, sociology, chemistry and other fields of study would be emphasised and encouraged. As melanin is an extremely complex area of study, the lack of coordination along academic lines seems to be needed.

Additional areas of interest for the Institute for Melanin Research include:

  • Maintain the Melanin Museum
  • Publish Mweusi: Journal of Melanin Theory
  • Call for unbiased objective research into melanin
  • Address issues relative to scientific misconduct regarding melanin
  • Encourage popular ideas based on known properties of melanin
  • Encourage researchers to investigate new pathways for investigation into the nature of melanin from an objective perspective.
  • Seek comprehensive melanin research projects informing the public.
  • Pursue novel approaches to melanin research
  • The Melanin Museum
  • Melanin Hall of Fame

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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