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JAMA. 1991 Nov 20;266(19):2730-6.

Induction of skin tanning by subcutaneous administration of a potent synthetic melanotropin.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Arizona Health Sciences Center, Tucson 85724.


OBJECTIVE--To determine the efficacy of short-term administration of a synthetic analogue of alpha-melanotropin, [Nle4D-Phe7] (NDP)-alpha-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (MSH), in darkening (tanning) human skin. DESIGN--Randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical trial. SETTING--Clinical research unit of a university medical center. SUBJECTS--Twenty-eight healthy white men with a history of either poor tanning (skin type I or II) or good tanning (skin type III or IV) recruited from advertisements and paid to participate in the study. METHODS--Each subject received 10 subcutaneous injections of either a purified NDP preparation or saline over 12 days. They were followed up for 7 weeks after therapy was completed. All subjects used a high-potency sunscreen during the trial. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE--Skin darkening was quantified by serial chromaticity measurements prior to, during, and after therapy.


-A significant parabolic curve of skin darkening activity was noted in subjects with skin type I or II (P less than .001) and with skin type III or IV (P much less than .001) who were given NDP. No darkening occurred in the subjects who were given a placebo. Peak changes were seen 1 to 3 weeks after therapy was completed. CONCLUSION--Human skin darkens as a response to a synthetic melanotropin given by subcutaneous injection. Skin tanning appears possible without potentially harmful exposure to ultraviolet radiation.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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