Research on Melanin has been out for a few years. However, I heard a recent HBN Podcast (December 5, 2022) interview on Dr. Radames Cordero, a Johns Hopkins Bloomberg school of public health researcher, speaking about his company Melatech. He is the co-founder and CEO of Melatech, a biotech company dedicated to producing Melanin at industrial scales and developing Melanin-based technologies for various commercial applications. Melanin is best known as the pigment that dictates our skin tones, but it is found just about everywhere it is in our brains and in our hair.
Melatech (2022) reported that as abundant Melanin is, its exact macromolecular chemical structure must be better understood. Researchers have known for a long time that eumelanin the pigment that colors human skin, hair, and eyes can conduct electricity. But eumelanin in its natural form isn’t conductive enough to be very useful, and nobody could figure out how to boost it. Melanin comprises a variety of mammalian pigments, “including the dark, electrically conductive eumelanin and the reddish, sulfur-containing pheomelanin.”
Dr. Cordero was raised in Puerto Rico and received his bachelor of science degree from the University of Puerto Rico. After that, he attended Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, where he obtained his master’s in science and his Ph.D. in biomedical sciences from the College of Medicine in microbiology and immunology. He mentions “that Melanin is very expensive to produce and that one gram of Melanin would cost $500 per gram, eight times the price of 1 gram of gold, so I realize that’s a significant limitation.” Melanin acts as a natural sunscreen and protects as a powerful antioxidant.
Kim and Associates (2016), a team of researchers from Carnegie Mellon University, discovered that the chemical structure of Melanin can conduct electricity. The chemical structure of Melanin may be conducive to creating certain kinds of batteries based on natural melanin pigments. Melanin in the fungi near the radioactive Chernobyl reactor radiation was being consumed by the fungi, which allowed them to grow even bigger and faster when they were eating radiation. The radiation exposure kicks the fungi’s metabolism into high gear, their Melanin converting the radiation to energy.
Researchers believe that studying these unusual fungi could potentially use their Melanin to solve problems like radiation exposure from traveling and living in space. Science continues to unlock the mysteries of life. The research The Narrative Matters!
Durham, E. (May 17, 2016). Researchers discover Melanin could make for great batteries. Researchers discover Melanin could make for great batteries (phys.org)
HBN Podcast (December 5, 2022). Melatech: unlocking Melanin’s biotech potential for the benefit of society in earth and space. Episodes — Hopkins Biotech Podcast
Kim, Y. J., Khetan, A., Wu, W., Chun, S. E., Viswanathan, V., Whitacre, J. F., & Bettinger, C. J. (2016). Evidence of Porphyrin‐Like Structures in Natural Melanin Pigments Using Electrochemical Fingerprinting. Advanced Materials, 28(16), 3173-3180.
Melatech. (2022).Science & Technology – Melatech