What makes you tan can help you survive cancer treatment

Mice who were injected with the melanin-sand solution suffered less bone marrow damage from radiation treatments than those that did not get the injections. They also recovered white blood cells and platelets faster.

The Dadachova Lab at the Einstein School of Medicine has proven a technique for getting melanin into the spines of cancer patients, helping them better survive radiation therapy.

Associate professor and cancer scholar Ekatarina Dadachova (right), who learned radiochemistry as part of her B.A. studies at Moscow State University in Russia 25 years ago, layered coats of synthetic melanin onto sand and injected them resulting nanoparticles into mice.  (Picture from the Albert Einstein School of Medicine.)

Melanin, the pigment responsible for skin color, not only curbs free radicals but can eliminate those which form anyway.

Mice who were injected with the melanin-sand solution silicon nanoparticles suffered less bone marrow damage from radiation treatments than those that did not get the injections. They also recovered white blood cells and platelets faster.

In addition to helping cancer patients undergoing radiation the treatment, which could be in human tests within two years, may also help protect astronauts from radiation exposure in space.

The idea is eminently logical in terms of human evolution.

Solar radiation is damaging, so human beings at the Equator needed it as protection.  As descendants migrated toward the poles, with less radiation (and more clothes), melanin's advantages declined, and people born without it had high survival rates. In other words, they became white.

Now, by taking what evolution rejected and getting it inside we might survive again.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com