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Name: Janae Lepir
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Question:
How does the skin produce melanin?



Replies:
There are special cells in the skin called melanocytes. They synthesize melanin from an amino acid, tyrosine. (Amino acids make up proteins; there are about 20 different ones). Melanocytes can be stimulated by a hormone in the pituitary gland called melanocyte stimulating hormone (MSH). I don't know how much biology you've had, but melanocytes are derived from an interesting embryonic tissue called the neural crest, which also gives rise to a lot of different types of neurons, so embryologically melanocytes are related to neurons. If melanocytes become malignant, it becomes a very bad form of cancer, called melanoma (often called "skin cancer", although there are other forms of skin cancer).

--ProfBill



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