It sounds too good to be true: a sun tan in a pill, but that's what researchers at the University of Arizona have been fine-tuning. They say it's a drug that not only bronzes the body, but may also help protect against sun damage. They call it Melanotan. The compound works by stimulating pigment production producing a tan without sun, and when researchers recently combined the drug with a small dose of sun, here's what they found.
"Sun plus the drug led to a much darker tan and a tan that lasted a lot longer than if we just used the drug alone," says Dr. Norman Levine, researcher, University of Arizona.
The sun drug subjects also produced fewer sunburn cells compared to study subjects who got a placebo. Side effects included flushing and some nausea.
Unfortunately, it could still be a few years before Melanotan is available to the public. Meanwhile, an Australian company called Epitan is already testing the drug to prevent skin cancer.
Melanotan-1 (MT-1) is a synthetic super potent derivative of its natural counterpart, Alpha-Melanocyte-stimulating hormone, one of a family of hormones that induce pigmentation in the body. According to information in the article in the Archives of Dermatology, the authors previously demonstrated that MT-1 can induce tanning in human volunteers who are known to tan easily in response to sunlight.
The studies were conducted under an investigator-sponsored investigational new drug application from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Co-author Stuart Humphrey, Ph.d., is the manager of clinical development at Epitan Ltd. in Melbourne, Australia, and provided detailed critiques of the manuscript and analysis of the data. Dr. Dorr is a consultant to Epitan Ltd.
Dr. Dorr and co-authors David S. Alberts, M.D., and Norman Levine, M.D., are shareholders in Epitan Ltd.