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Enzyme That Darkens Skin Could Prevent Skin Cancer Risk

Researchers have identified an enzyme that can be used topically to protect from UV radiation.

A recent Healio article discussed an enzyme discovered by a team at Massachusetts General Hospital that could help reduce the risk of skin cancer. The enzyme is a skin pigment mechanism that darkens skin, increasing its capability to protect skin from ultraviolet radiation damage. It’s called nicotinamide nucleotide transhydrogenase (NNT), and located in the mitochondria where it regulates melanin production. In a study, the team determined that skin with a darker pigment was protected from DNA damage caused by UV radiation.

“We identified what we think is a druggable opportunity, an opportunity to inhibit function of enzyme using a small molecule topically that might be able to purposefully skew the pigmentation toward a type of melanin or a class of melanin that are more photoprotective —more capable of protecting our skin from ultraviolet radiation damage,” study author David E. Fisher, MD, PhD, chief of the department of dermatology at Massachusetts General Hospital, said.

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