A black and insoluble biopolymer called eumelanin and other types of melanin together determine skin and hair color, particularly for dark phenotypes. Eumelanin is also a soft, biocompatible nanomaterial with technological potential. However, previous studies of this substance have primarily been carried out with synthetic samples. In the journal Angewandte Chemie, Italian researchers have now revealed why natural eumelanin is significantly superior to the synthetic version as a radical scavenger, antioxidant, and photo-protectant.
Thanks to its unusual optoelectronic, dielectric, metal-binding, and radical-scavenging properties, eumelanin could be useful for a variety of technical applications, including organic electronic components or antioxidants for plastics. However, it was recently discovered that the properties of synthetic eumelanin are significantly different from those of the natural product.
Within pigment cells, eumelanin is produced enzymatically from tyrosine or DOPA. An important intermediate step in this process is the isomerization of dopachrome to 5,6-dihydroxyindole-2-carboxylic acid (DHICA). In…
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