Melanin Myths: They Just Keep Coming

We found that there were more than ten myths about melanin. In order to continue tracking the melanin myth machine we decided to create an article documenting the myths as they come to us. Stay tuned.

Melanin Molecule
Computed version of the 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.
  1. Melanin is only pigment or color
    • Melanin is a chemical. It is an aromatic biopolymer and organic semiconductor. Yes, melanin actually conducts electricity. That was proven in 1974. Melanin is more than pigment or color.
  2. They made melatonin pills from dead black people melanin.
    • melatonin is not made from melanin.
    • melatonin actually degrades melanin in melanocytes.
    • melatonin was originally made from an extract from beef pineal glands.
    • Although they both originate from amino acids, melatonin is derived from tryptophan, while melanin derives from tyrosine.
    • melatonin is derived from the earliest life forms and is found in all organisms.
    • melatonin can be taken in from vegetables, fruits, rice and wheat.
  3. Skin melanin is different from neuromelanin. Neuromelanin is as different from eumelanin in your skin as your left eye is different from your right eye. It’s all about location. Location location location.
  4. Does melanin correlate to aggression?
    • The Interactive Metabolic Pathways map will help see that is the wrong direction. Go two steps back from melanin to dopa. That is the chemical tyrosine changes to after it is oxygenated. Dopa is the precursor to dopaquinone before it becomes melanin.
    • In the skin dopa turns to melanin in the presence of tyrosinase. In the brain, which is where the aggressive behavior you are referring to originates, not the skin, dopa becomes Dopamine, Norepinephrine, and lastly Epinephrine (Adrenaline). All three are neurotransmitters and catecholamines. Melanin is an amino acid.
    • The reduced melanin in the foxes’ fur may have resulted from a reduced amount of tyrosine (due to change in the diet of a domesticated fox possibly?) Reduced tyrosine production (by the way albinism is caused by an inability to produce tyrosine) will lead to an inability to produce melanin.
    • Melanin does not cause aggression. How someone came to associate melanin with aggression is curious to say the least.
    • Anyone who wants to know what causes aggression check out (paid link) Aggression: Its Causes, Consequences, and Control published in 1993 by Leonard Berkowitz. It is the most cited source on the subject. According to the description for the book:

(Paid link)

    • Berkowitz identifies such risk factors as childhood experiences, frustration, poverty, and personal and social stresses, as well as external events and situations that bring hostile ideas to mind. He also examines biological influences, such as hereditary factors, hormones, and alcohol, that promote aggressive tendencies.
    • Reviewing studies of the use of punishment and legal controls (e.g., the death penalty, gun control laws), the author discusses how this socially destructive behavior might be reduced. He presents research on the effectiveness of various psychological procedures, including the supposedly cathartic methods, instrumental training, and cognitive and anger control techniques.
    • This general introduction to the research and theorizing about human aggression seeks to promote understanding of the fundamental causes of destructive conduct, the conditions that can increase the chances of aggressive behavior, and the most effective steps that could be taken to reduce the likelihood of violence in society.
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