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Br J Dermatol. 2011 Feb;164(2):407-14. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2133.2010.10104.x.

Systemic photoprotection in solar urticaria with α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone analogue [Nle4-D-Phe7]-α-MSH.

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  • 1Dermatological Sciences, Inflammation Sciences Research Group, School of Translational Medicine, University of Manchester, Manchester Academic Health Sciences Centre, Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, Manchester M6 8HD, UK.



Solar urticaria is a rare photosensitivity disorder demonstrating a range of action spectra, which can inflict a very large impact on life quality despite available treatments. Melanin broadly reduces skin penetration by ultraviolet-visible wavelengths, thus increased melanization may protect in solar urticaria.


To examine quantitatively for impact of the potent α-melanocyte stimulating hormone analogue afamelanotide ([Nle(4)-D-Phe(7)]-α-MSH, Scenesse(®); Clinuvel Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Melbourne, Vic., Australia) on the solar urticaria response and skin melanization.


Five patients with solar urticaria received a single dose of 16 mg subcutaneous afamelanotide implant in winter time. Melanin density was assessed spectrophotometrically from day 0 to day 60. Detailed monochromated light testing to geometric dose series (increment ) of wavelengths 300-600 nm was performed at 0, 30 and 60 days, with assessment of weal and flare area and minimum urticarial dose (MUD). Data were analysed by repeated-measures anova.


Mean melanin density increased by day 7, peaked at day 15 and remained elevated at day 60 (P=0·03, 0·01, 0·02 vs. baseline, respectively). Baseline phototesting revealed action spectra of 320-400 (n=1), 320-500 (n=2), 300-600 (n=1) and 370-500 nm (n=1), and on afamelanotide mean rises in MUD of 1-12 and 1-3 dose increments were seen at the individual wavelengths tested, at 30 and 60 days, respectively. A significant fall in weal area occurred across responding wavelengths from 300 to 600 nm at 60 days postimplant (P=0·049 vs. baseline), accompanied by greater than twofold overall increase in MUD (P=0·058 vs. baseline).


Melanization following afamelanotide is accompanied by reduction in solar urticaria response across a broad spectrum of wavelengths. Further study is warranted to assess clinical benefit under ambient conditions in summer.

© 2011 The Authors. BJD © 2011 British Association of Dermatologists.

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