Melanin and Bio/Nanotechnology


Nakato Lewis

Blackherbals at the Source of the Nile, UG Ltd.

October 2006

Mumia, a powder derived from dried Egyptian mummies, was one of the most valued commodities on the apothecaries' shelves. Believed to contain powerful, mystical cures for many diseases, the demand for mumia in 17th-century Europe was so great that it was impossible to supply it. As a result, medical charlatans grew wealthy selling fake mumia, made from the remains of recently executed prisoners. In addition, the oils and resins used in embalming the body were so potent, that the mummies sold to doctors in Europe distilled the dressings for use in their medicines. Embalming was one of the principal uses of aromatherapy, preserving the tissue of the bodies for thousands of years - Empirics, Quacks, and Alternative Medical Practices Nanotechnology is the science of manipulating matter such as black materials, sometimes smaller than 100 nanometers, and taking advantages of the properties, such as electrical conductivity, that is present only at that level.


A nanometer is one-billionth of a meter, or about one-millionth the size of a pin head. The prefix comes from "nanos," the Greek word for dwarf.  Nanotechnology has been around for several decades, but only now is its potential starting to be realized. Medicine is expected to be only one of the fields to benefit most from the technology.  


One of the first things we learn in science class is that there are three states of matter, gas, liquid and solid. All black materials belong to the solid state and follow its laws.  Black materials are present in the entire universe and are of great interest for the evolution of our planet and living systems. They are present in the lithosphere as minerals, graphite, black shale, fullerenes; in the hydrosphere as black particles in seas, lakes and rivers; in the atmosphere as soot and smoke; in cosmos as fullerenes and cosmids; and in the universe as black holes. In the biosphere, black matter is better known as the melanin (black pigment) molecule, in all its forms. The chemical element carbon is the basis of most life on this planet and is also black in color. 


Melanin constitutes a class of pigments, which are widespread in humans, animals and vegetables. While the name melanin in Greek means black, not all melanin as pigments are black but may vary from brown to yellow. It belongs to a family of unique and very stable black substances that is present throughout nature and the universe.

Physical Characteristics of Black Materials and Melanin


But even before we learn about the different states of matter, we learn that matter cannot be created or destroyed, only rearranged. One of the physical characteristics of black materials is its ability to rearrange its chemical structure to absorb all energy across the radiant energy spectrum. Reflected energy is white light, i.e. from the sun in the visible range, whereas absorbed energy is black in colour. Melanin absorbs light energy, sound energy and electromagnetic energy. Melanin has many other interesting properties too, such as ultraviolet absorption, where it is currently being utilized in the preparation of UV-absorbing optical lenses and in cosmetic creams.

The colours of melanin are those of a pure semiconductor. As with other black materials, such as graphite and fullerenes, this state is subject to changes by doping with other materials. All black materials, including melanin, show a remarkable affinity for metals and exhibit the ability to form charge-transfer complexes, which can carry either a positive or a negative charge. Melanin can conduct electricity without offering resistance to the flow of electricity. This means that melanin has super-conducting capabilities. It also behaves like an insulator in that it will not allow electrical current to pass through its structure, similar to rubber and plastic insulators. The added ability of melanin to undergo polymerization is of great interest in Industry for its nano-technological use in bio-plastics and biopolymers.  

Melanin also displays what is called threshold switching (an on/off switch), which means it can function as a bio-mechanical regulator of biological functions.  Of even greater interest to the scientific community is its use in the genetic engineering of pharmaceutical drugs for specific diseases and other microbial applications using nanotechnology. For example, two research laboratories at the Savannah River Site in the US are undertaking a study to better understand how scientists can encourage certain bacteria to produce more of a type of melanin, a pigment similar to the one that makes human skin darker, which could be use to clean up metals and radionuclides (radiation particles) in the environment.

This is called bioremediation, the use of living things, such as microbes or plants to clean up environmental contamination. Melanin has been shown to accelerate the rate at which microbes transform metals and radionuclides in the soil. Researchers hope to stimulate the bacteria to produce more melanin by providing them certain nutrients, which in turn could speed up the rate at which metals and radionuclides currently in the environment are detoxified or immobilized.


In another example, experiments on mice have shown promise for the future of nanotechnology in treating cancer. The technology being tested involves a nanoparticle of a hydrogen and carbon polymer with bits of drug bound up in its fabric and attached to a substance that hones in on cancer cells. By successfully treating prostate cancer tumor in mice, this research brings doctors one step closer to being able to inject patients with nanoparticles that bore inside tumours and release powerful doses of cancer-killing drugs while leaving the rest of the body untouched. However, one major problem scientists are having in perfecting the blood injection is that the nanoparticles are ending up in the liver and spleen - an unwanted side effect because once they dissolve in those organs, they release toxic levels of chemotherapy to healthy tissue.

Melanin in Human Physiology

African physiology is based on the melanin biochemical molecule. Melanin is a unique life chemical found in high concentration in people of African descent.  In addition to providing pigmentation to hair, skin and eyes, melanin is incorporated into all major systems and vital organs in the body, bringing control of all bodily systems under the central nervous system, the body’s information network. Melanin is in the nervous system, the spinal cord, the glands, the brain, the DNA, the muscles, intestines, the heart, blood and the liver.  Its presence can be found throughout nature and is also found in many of our foods.


As a free radical scavenger or oxygen scavenger, melanin has additional anti-toxin characteristics and as such, can serve as a terminator of free radical chain reactions. As a free radical scavenger, melanin plays an important role in preserving cells from the toxic effects of oxygen (antioxidant effect) and is generally present at the site of tissue repair, regeneration of cuts and wounds, and infectious diseases. Melanin also increases the speed of nerve and brain messages which are transmitted between the left and right hemispheres of the brain and all signals transmitted throughout the bodily nerve network. Melanin can bind and release many of the known elements that are essential for proper body metabolism. It readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and is therefore useful as a carrier for other therapeutic agents that must reach brain tissue to produce their therapeutic responses.A variety of drugs, such as chloroquine, cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, etc., were designed to have a high affinity for melanin.

In the past, western medicine considered melanin a waste product of human metabolism, serving no useful function in the body. Modern science has since discovered that the melanin molecule like other black materials to which it is related, is very old, very refined, complex, multifunctional, biochemical polymer having a wide variety of important functions within the human body and throughout nature. Earlier scientific studies elucidating human biochemical structures never took into account the importance of melanin in the human body. Therefore, in the treatment of disease, early medical and pharmaceutical determinations based the physical, neurological and metabolic responses of animals only on white or albino animals, as a means of extrapolating the mean response of humans to laboratory-produced drugs, chemicals and pesticides. Consequently, the physiological, metabolic and neurological differences in the biological makeup of black people were not included in those studies. This is one of the reasons why western medicine does not work adequately in melanated people and the reason why we suffer so many side-effects from these substances. Race-based medicine now being developed by the pharmaceutical industry, is based on synthetic and genetically-engineered drugs, chemicals, food and now, melanin.

Naturally-occurring melanins include eumelanins, phaeomelanins, neuromelanins and allomelanins (plant-based). Colors in humans are determined chiefly by two types of melanin, eumelanins and phaeomelanin. Eumelanins are derived from the precursor, tyrosine, generally insoluble and black or brown in colour. Phaeomelanins have tyrosine and cysteine as their precursors, are generally alkali-soluble and much lighter in colour. Under the microscope melanin is brown, non-refractile and finely granular with individual granules, having a diameter of less than 800 nanometers.

Melanins are polymers produced by polymerization of reactive intermediates. The reactive intermediates are produced chemically or enzymatically from precursors consisting of smaller chemical species in varying amounts, such as tyrosine, tryptophan, glutamate, phenylalanine, serotonin, melantonin, dopamine, norepinephrine (noradrenaline), and epinephrine (adrenaline). The term melanin includes naturally- occurring melanins, which are usually high molecular weight polymers (generally, molecular weights in the millions).


Naturally-occurring melanin is formed through natural biochemical pathways. One is diet, involving the amino acids phenylalanine and tyrosine. Phenylalanine is a dietary chemical that comes from red meat and soya. It is a melanin precursor, which can raise blood pressure. Another pathway for natural melanin production involves the use of the neurotransmitters, epinephrine and norepinephrine. Melanin production is intimately involved with the neural system (neuromelanin) because tyrosine and phenylalanine are also precursors for the neurotransmitters epinephrine, norepinphrine and dopamine.


The metabolic pathway, for the production of melanin from amino acid building blocks, finds maximal presence in those cells that have a high demand for those products, the brain. Brain cells have high levels of tyrosinase because there is a high demand for dopamine. The enzyme, tyrosinase plays a key role in the syntheses of melanins and its derivatives. The substantia nigra, the region of the brain where the concentration of melanin is very high, is noted for cells with high levels of tyrosinase. Insufficient amounts of this enzyme cause melanin deficiencies in some humans. The gene for human tyrosinase has been isolated, genetically sequenced and cloned.

Currently, melanin is being produced synthetically or isolated from natural sources. Natural sources include beef eyes, squid, hair, bacteria such as Streptococcus antibiotics and E. coli, and the human brain, among others.

Benefits and Risks

With the use of genetic engineering and nanotechnology, melanins, its precursors and its derivatives are being synthetically produced and patented with predictable molecular weights, particle sizes, and compositions. Consequently, melanins can now be attached to antibodies and thus targeted for specific cells (e.g. liver cells). Melanin has a number of properties, which can be exploited to alter both cellular metabolism and/or remove or introduce intra- and intercellular toxins. Such properties include oxygen and free radical scavenging, metal binding, binding of organic cationic species, catalysis of coupled reduction-oxidation reactions. These properties are not interdependent, and melanin can be selectively altered and optimized. Drugs can be covalently bound to melanin or just adsorbed on its surface. They can be attached in such a manner that induces cellular metabolism at the target cell and cause release of the therapeutic agent.

Other therapeutic uses of bio-synthetic melanin are: 1) to treat melanin deficiencies; 2) to prevent neurodegenerative diseases of the nervous system caused by exposure to toxic agents; and 3) to assist in the recovery of neurons, injured as a result of direct injury or disease. In fact, the therapeutics uses of melanin and its derivatives stated above have already been patented in the U.S. In fact, there are a number of patents on the process of genetically-engineered melanin production using genetically-engineered microorganisms. In addition, nanoparticles of melanin can enter human cells as well as the soil, can trigger chemical reactions and can interfere with normal biological and ecological processes. Synthetic nanoparticles can readily cross the skin-blood-brain barrier, which should be of major concern to people of colour. This technology is suitable for bioterrorism and this is just the tip of the iceberg. A recent analysis of human genome data in public databases reveals that hundreds, possibly thousands of markers for ethnic-specific weapons do exist. In Black people there are some 15,000 possible biochemical markers that exist as future bioweapons.

The world is truly becoming a very dangerous place. The genetic modification of the common foods we eat, in the production of vaccines, herbicides, pesticides and the rearrangement of plant and animal cells in bio/nanotechnology to produce so-called desired physical and biochemical characteristics across species, is arrogant and foolish. The melanated God that created the universe and us along with it, cannot be outdone. Is western science trying to demonstrate that God is not perfect because some of his creations require fixing? The illnesses and diseases with which we are confronted are not from God. Although we have no control over the type of genes we receive at birth, the majority of the diseases that we acquire in our lifetime are from our own doing. It is humans that are polluting the earth and in polluting the earth, we pollute ourselves and our environment. Through genetic engineering and nanotechnology, they have opened up Pandora's box and we may not be able to close it. It has already gone too far.


The United States is the world leader in nanotechnology but it is not paying enough attention to the environment, health or to the safety risks posed by nanoscale products, says a report released by the independent National Research Council. At least 50 harmful effects can be attributed to genetically modified and engineered entities. Already 300 consumer products on the shelves contain nanoscale ingredients, including several foods and many cosmetics, with little or no research to document their safety.  The industry is expected to be worth about $2 trillion by 2014.  So as you can see, the quacks are at it again.