MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Rutao Cui, MD/PhD
Vice Chair for Laboratory Administration
Director, Laboratory of Melanoma Biology
Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
Professor of Dermatology
Boston, Mass 02118
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: Red-headed people are making up to 1~2% of the world’s population. They carry “red hair color” variants of MC1R (MC1R-RHC) which are responsible for their characteristic features, including red hair, pale skin, freckles and poor tanning ability.
MC1R-RHC also increases risk of melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. People without red hair but with a single copy of MC1R-RHC also have an increased melanoma risk, who may make more than 50% of the northern European population. It is unknown why redheads are more prone to melanoma, and whether the activity of red hair color variants could be restored for therapeutic benefits.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: For the first time, we show that there is a way to reduce melanoma risk in redheads. Specifically, we proved that MC1R is affected by a special modification process called palmitoylation which is critical for its function. Palmitoylation is a biochemical process attaching palmitic acid to a protein. By enhancing palmitoylation of MC1R-RHC in mice model, melanoma risk can be reduced.
MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Response: We hope our study allows for the development of a pharmacological prevention strategy for red-headed people to protect their skin and let them enjoy the sun like other people.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: Our study is promising, but we need more research to see how we can put our findings into practice. Interestingly, many natural products contain palmitic acid. Coconut oil is also rich in palmitic acid. We may investigate if these natural products can help us to prevent skin cancer.
MedicalResearch.com: Thank you for your contribution to the MedicalResearch.com community.
Palmitoylation-dependent activation of MC1R prevents melanomagenesis.
Chen S1, Zhu B1, Yin C1, Liu W1, Han C1, Chen B2, Liu T3, Li X1, Chen X4, Li C5, Hu L6, Zhou J7, Xu ZX8, Gao X6, Wu X2, Goding CR9, Cui R1.
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