What Is Melanin?

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melaninWhat Gives Our Skin Its Color?

Do you ever wonder where your skin gets its color from? Your body produces a pigment in your skin called Melanin. This is responsible for a dark brown to black pigment occurring in the hair, skin and iris of the eye in people and animals. It is also responsible for tanning of skin exposed to sunlight. There are many technical ways of describing how this is pigment is produced, but we want you to understand what it does for your skin and all of its other responsibilities. Keep reading on to find out more!

Melanin is sometimes referred to as a chemical and is formed as part of the process of metabolizing an amino acid called tyrosine. In our skin, it is formed by cells called melanocytes. There are certain skin conditions that are associated with the lack of melanin such as albinism. This is a skin condition that is marked by the absence of a normal amount of pigment in the body. It also exists in a number of variation, one of the most being recognized involves ultraviolet rays of the sun. Melanin is said to protect against the harmful effects of these rays, but not complete protection from the sun.

What Is Melanin?

As we already stated, Melanin is a pigment that is produced by cells known as melanocytes in the skin of most animals, including humans. It often comes in different shades depending on your genetic makeup of the individual. It typically comes in two basic forms and can range from a yelloish-red to dark brown. The most common form of melanin is referred to as emelanin, is the most common form of melanin and is brownish color. The other basic form is called pheomelanin, which produces reddish-brown color that is often associated with freckles and red hair. There is also one less common form that is called Neuromelanin which is a dark polymer pigment produced in specific population of catecholaminergic neurons in the brain. This is usually common in other non-human primates and totally absent in other species.

Genetic Disorders Associated With Melanin:

As already mentioned, there is one common skin condition that is related to a deficiency in melanin production; Albinism. This is a congenital disorder characterized by the complete or partial absence of pigment in the skin, hair, and eyes due to absence or defect of tyrosinase, which is a copper-containing enzyme involved in the production of melanin. Most commonly, those who deal with albinism have visual problems. The development of the optical system is highly dependent on the presence of melanin, and the reduction or absence of this pigment in sufferers of albinism.

There are common eye conditions such as, nystagmus, which is irregular rapid movement of the eyes back and forth, or in a circular motion. Amblyopia decreases in acuity of one or both eyes due to poor transmission to the brain, often due to other conditions such as strabismus. Lastly, optic nerve hypoplasia, is the underdevelopment of the optic nerve.

Albinism is generally the result of the biological inheritance of genetically recessive alleles passed from both parents of the individual. There are an estimated 1 in 20,000 people worldwide are born with oculocutaneous albinism. Type 1 and 2 are the most common forms of this condition, types 3 and 4 are less common.

To learn more about your melanin production or interested in learning more about the conditions associated with a deficiency in melanin, get in contact with a local expert today!