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Hunter Researchers Develop Molecular Code for Melanin-like Materials for Skin & Hair Care

Published on 2017-06-16. Author : SpecialChem

Hunter college-led scientists develop molecular code for melanin-like materials. A study led by Einstein Professor of Chemistry Rein V. Ulijn shows an exciting new approach for making substances with the properties of melanin, a compound that scientists have been unable to effectively synthesize in the lab.

Hunter Researchers Develop Molecular Code for Melanin-like Materials for Skin & Hair Care
Hunter Researchers Develop Molecular Code for Melanin-like
Materials for Skin & Hair Care

Melanin Pigment for UV Protection


Melanin’s disordered molecular structure makes it impossible to fully replicate, which has been scientifically frustrating; it has numerous useful qualities that scientists have long tried to harness. Melanin gives the color to skin, hair, and eyes – but it also absorbs light, providing UV-protection and energy storage.

Now, with this new process to create melanin-like substances, scientists can harness these usefulness, while maintaining control over the ways the pigments and properties express themselves. This innovative discovery could enable the development of a new range of cosmetic, skin care, and biomedical products, and the commercialization opportunities may lead to near-term possibilities for the researchers.

Director of the Nanoscience Initiative at the Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) at the Graduate Center, CUNY, Professor Ulijn said:

“We took advantage of simple versions of proteins—tripeptides, consisting of just three amino acids—to produce a range of molecular architectures with precisely controlled levels of order and disorder. We were amazed to see that, upon oxidation of these peptide structures, polymeric pigments with a range of colors—from light beige to deep brown- were formed.”

Chemical Structure & Functionalities


Subsequent, in-depth characterization of the approach demonstrated that further properties, such as UV absorbance and nanoscale morphology of the melanin-like materials, could also be systematically controlled by the amino acid sequence of the tripeptide.

The findings published in Science build on Professor Ulijn’s previous research. His lab will now turn its attention to further clarifying the chemical structures that form and expanding the resulting functionalities and properties of the various melanin-like materials they produce.

President of Hunter College, Jennifer J. Raab said:

“We are very proud of Professor Ulijin’s work. Our students are fortunate to learn from a scientist on the cutting edge of such impactful advances, and we anticipate broad implications of this and future discoveries.”

In addition to Professor Ulijn, the research team also included Hunter Professors Steven G. Greenbaum, Sunita Humagain , and Barney Yoo; Ayala Limpel, Scott A. McPhee, Tai-De Li and Rinat R. Abzalimov of the ASRC; Christopher Bettinger and Hang-Ah Park, Carnegie Mellon University; Tell Tuttle and Gary G. Scott, University of Strathclyde; Doeke R. Hekstra, Harvard University; Pim W.J.M. Frederix, University of Groningen, The Netherlands; and Chunhua Hu, New York University.

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Source: Hunter College
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