In a study published Tuesday in the open-access journal Cell Reports, researchers at Mass General-Harvard Medical School and Boston University School of Medicine say they’ve developed a topical drug that helps tan skin without exposing it to UV damage.
When people lie out in the sun to get some color, they’re actually just boosting their cells’ melanin production.
While melanin naturally helps protect the skin against sun damage, tanning to produce more melanin results in skin damage.
It is possible that this approach may minimize the need for people to seek UV as a trigger of tanning.” To test this topical drug, Fisher, along with co-lead authors Nisma Mujahid and Yanke Liang, applied it to human skin samples in the lab.
When the team applied the experimental compound, developed in conjunction with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute chemist Nathanael Gray, Ph.D., it induced melanin development along the same pathway that UV radiation produces melanin, making the skin darker — but it didn’t cause the same kind of damage that radiation would cause.