Researchers have found and identified a certain protein that has a role in increasing protective skin pigmentation after a person is exposed to ultraviolet radiation. The protein is named SOX9 and is as factor that is known to play a part in embryo development and is in many organs in adults such as the heart, kidney, and brain. It acts like a transcription factor, which is a substance that controls when and where genes, and proteins encoded by those genes, are expressed.
This study was led by researchers at the National Cancer Institute, which is a division of the National Institutes of Health. It confirmed how important SOX9 is to adult skin cells. It is also the first one to show that one of the proteins in the SOX family can be regulated by ultra violet radiation
There are specialized cells called melanocytes that produce a pigment called melanin which is what protects skin cells from ultra violet rays that can cause skin cancer. The melanin is then transported to the epidermal cells that make up the majority of the skin. Melanoma is a cancer of melanocytes and is the most deadly skin cancer. Its occurrence is on a dramatic rise in the United States.
Ultra violet radiation is associated with a process that is know to lead to many different types of skin cancer. Ultraviolet radiation comes from several sources in addition to the sun including tanning machines. Those who have a lighter skin color get greater damage from the ultra violet rays and therefor have a much greater risk of contracting skin cancer. Increasing the pigmentation in the skin is believed to help lessen that damage. The research gives insight into how our bodies naturally protest us from ultraviolet rays and a look at just how cellular pathways contribute to the development of melanoma.
The research went like this. The scientists looked at how melanocytes express SOX9 in normal human skin, under normal conditions. They then exposed normal human melanocytes to ultraviolet rays and compared the levels of SOX9 in the two groups of cells. After two hours, the levels of SOX9 increased when they were exposed to ultraviolet rays and not only that, they continued to increase for eight more hours after they had been exposed. They also found that they could inhibit the growth of SOX9 by exposing it to a protein called ASP, which is known to inhibit the growth of
The research so far has shown that SOX9 can help produce more melanin, the next step is to see what the effect would be of SOX9 on the spread of melanoma cells and the properties of those cells that promote tumor growth with the result showing whether or not SOX9 could be used to target melanoma.
National Institute of Health http://www.nih.gov/