Shield­ing the skin

Me­lanocytes make dark pig­ments to shield the skin cells from dam­ag­ing sun­light

How It Works - - SCIENCE -

Me­lanin

This is the pig­ment that gives the skin its colour. It comes in two forms: brown-black eu­me­lanin and red-yel­low pheome­lanin.

Me­lanosome

Me­lanocytes stuff pack­ets of me­lanin into mem­brane-cov­ered bun­dles be­fore send­ing them out into the skin.

Ker­atinocytes

These cells make up the outer layer of our skin, and their DNA is vul­ner­a­ble to dam­age from the Sun’s rays.

UV light

When light hits the skin, cells called me­lanocytes start to pro­duce ex­tra me­lanin.

Tan­ning

Ker­atinocytes use the pack­ets of me­lanin to cover their nu­clei, shield­ing their DNA from the Sun.

Me­lanocyte

Specialist cells un­der the skin make the dark pig­ment me­lanin us­ing a mol­e­cule called ty­ro­sine.

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