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Photochem Photobiol. 2008 May-Jun;84(3):639-44. doi: 10.1111/j.1751-1097.2008.00316.x. Epub 2008 Mar 8.

Role of ocular melanin in ophthalmic physiology and pathology.

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Tissue Culture Center, Department of Pathology, The New York Eye and Ear Infirmary and New York Medical College, New York, NY, USA.


The mammalian eye consists of several layers of pigmented tissues that contain melanin. The eye is a unique organ for pigment cell research because one can isolate and compare melanosomes from different tissues and embryonic origins. Retinal, iris and ciliary pigment epithelial cells are derived from the neural ectoderm, more specifically from the extremity of the embryonic optical cup, which is also the origin of the retina. In contrast, the pigment-generating cells in the choroid and in the stroma of the iris and ciliary body, uveal melanocytes, are developed from the neural crest, the same origin as the melanocytes in skin and hair. This review examines the potential functions of ocular melanin in the human eye. Following a discussion of the role of melanins in the pigment epithelium and uveal melanocytes, three specific topics are explored in detail-photo-screening protective effects, biophysical and biochemical protective effects, and the biologic and photobiologic effects of the two main classes of melanins (generally found as mixtures in ocular melanosomes)--eumelanin and pheomelanin.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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