July 1st, 2020
By Sayer Ji
Contributing writer for Wake Up World
The mystery of melanin’s role in human physiology, and its potential to confer profound health protective and promoting properties, is explained in the excerpt below from Chapter 3 of Sayer Ji’s book REGENERATE: Unlocking Your Body’s Radical Resilience Through The New Biology.
Melanin, Radiation, and the Conversion of Light to Metabolic Energy
Melanin, the central pigment within our skin, and distributed throughout our bodies, is one of the most interesting biomolecules identified thus far. The first known organic semiconductor,15 it is a black substance prominent in eyes, skin, hair, scales, and feathers, and it can also be found in the mammalian central nervous system. From the ink of the octopus to the protective colorings of bacteria and fungi, melanin offers protection against a variety of biochemical and predatory threats and chemical stressors, and, most famously, acts as a photoprotective factor against ultraviolet radiation. It absorbs all visible wavelengths of the electromagnetic spectrum, hence its dark coloration, and, most notably, converts and dissipates potentially harmful ultraviolet radiation into heat. It serves a wide range of additional physiological roles, including free radical scavenging, charge transfer, toxicant chelation, endocrine functions,16 and gene protection. Melanin’s proposed ability to convert sunlight into metabolic energy–akin to the way chlorophyll harvests sunlight in plants–means that our species should be reclassified from heterotrophic to photoheterotrophic, and, even more significantly, may raise the prospect that melanin offers protection against ionizing radiation while transforming it into metabolically useful energy.
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