Suntan drug greenlighted for trials

February 3, 2009

By hammersmith

[Source: Wired Science, Alexis Madrigal] – A drug that stimulates the body’s tanning response — turning pasty skin caramel for up to two months  — has been approved for human trials, but not for tanning.

Although the drug will not be available for cosmetic purposes any time soon, similar compounds are already being widely abused on the pharmaceutical black market. The official product, a man made hormone called afamelanotide, has received U.S. government approval to begin clinical trials.

“It’s a bioabsorbable implant that you just inject into the skin,” said Colin Mackie, director of business development for Clinuvel, the company bringing the drug to the U.S. “It stimulates melanin production.”

Melanin is the body’s natural pigment. It’s responsible for the color of skin and protects humans from harmful solar radiation. The drug will be tested as a treatment for patients who face serious danger from the sun’s rays, like those with rare genetic diseases or who must take immunosuppressants, Mackie said.

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