Researchers from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Cutaneous Biology Research Center (CBRC) have found out how one can get a tan without being exposed to harmful UV radiations.
The team has discovered a molecular switch that controls melanin production.
They describe how blocking the action of this switch - an enzyme called PDE-4D3 - in the skin of mice led to a significant increase in melanin production.
"Not only would increased melanin directly block UV radiation, but an alternative way to activate the tanning response could help dissuade people from sun tanning or indoor tanning, both of which are known to raise skin cancer risk," said David Fisher.
The researchers confirmed role of PDE-4D3 in controlling melanin expression by applying several agents that block PDE production to the skin of the transgenic mice with epidermal melanocytes.
After five days of treatment, the animals' skin had darkened significantly, while treament of control mice with no epidemal melanocytes produced no effect.
"We showed that PDE-4D3 is particularly important within melanocytes, and while the enzyme may have a role in other cells, a blocking drug that is applied directly to the skin would probably have limited effects in other tissues," Fisher said.
Additional research is needed to identify drugs that penetrate human skin and safely block PDE-4D3, he notes, and his team has already started searching for such agents.