October 10th, 2016
By Sayer Ji
Contributing writer for Wake Up World
Could the melanin found in our bodies (the pigments that give human skin, hair and eyes their color) and in foods like mushrooms, help to mitigate the increasingly dire quantities of radiation we are exposed to daily?
Over the course of the past decade, one of the most interesting concepts I have run into while scouring the biomedical literature is the possibility that melanin’s biological role in the human body may extend far beyond simply protecting us against UV radiation. In fact, one recent and highly controversial paper proposes that melanin is responsible for generating the majority of the body’s energy, effectively challenging the ATP-focused and glucose-centric view of cellular bioenergetics that has dominated biology for the past half century.
Research is now emerging indicating that melanin may function in a manner analogous to energy harvesting pigments such as chlorophyll, and may have even have driven our evolution into the uniquely hairless, brain-dominant hominins we are today. While melanin’s proposed ability to convert sunlight into metabolic energy has amazing implications (one of which is the taxonomical reclassification of our species from heterotrophic to photoheterotrophic), what may have even more spectacular implications is the prospect that melanin may actually both protect us against ionizing radiation andtransform some of it into metabolically useful energy.
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