Scientists developing cream to repair skin cell damage from sun

Author: Amy Oshier Writer: Joey Pellegrino
Published: Updated:

As many as 97,000 Americans will develop melanoma this year, and almost 8,000 will die from it. Scientists at the University of Cincinnati are developing a cream that will increase pigmentation in a person’s skin while repairing skin cells damaged by sun exposure.

Want to get a healthy tan, avoid wrinkles, and protect yourself from skin cancer at the same time? Researcher Zalfa Abdel-Malek has spent the past 25 years determining the best way to do just that.

“It all started with interest in understanding how normal human pigmentation is regulated,” Abdel-Malek said.

Abdel-Malek and her team focused on a receptor in skin cells known as MC1R that controls skin color or pigmentation. The team is developing a topically applied cream that would start a sunless tanning process.

“What you’re doing with our peptides is you’re activating your skin’s natural ability to increase pigmentation,” Abdel-Malek said. “So, when you go out in the sun, you’re not gonna have the drastic and dangerous effects of sun exposure.”

Abdel-Malek says the team’s product would be better than commercially available spray tans, which color the skin but don’t activate those receptors that reduce DNA damage.

Once scientists finalize the formula, the next step would be to test it on human skin. Abdel-Malek says it could be commercially available in the next few years.

The researchers have established a start-up company called MC1R Ventures to continue to develop the product and then move it toward production. Abel-Malek says the cream could also have an application for people who have lost pigmentation due to vitiligo.

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