Melanotan, also known as α-MSH (Alpha-MSH), is a synthetic hormone created by the Arizona Cancer Center at the University of Arizona, and which seems to lead a wave of drugs which proscribe to a Heinleinian ideal - It has the potential to make you thin, tan, and horny.
"Melanotan I and II are both synthetic hormones of melanocyte stimulating hormone that were created, synthesized and developed at The University of Arizona and the Arizona Cancer Center. Melanotan I is a linear, full length peptide (containing all 13 amino acids). Melanotan II is a shortened, circular version of the same peptide. Both have sunless tanning capabilities but because MelanotanII had spontaneous erection as a side effect, it is not being further developed as a tanning agent. It is now being evaluated as an erectile dysfunction drug."2
Now owned by EpiTan Limited, the drug went into clinical trials on November 20, 2001. Melanotan's primary purpose, as suggested by the name, is to increase melanin production in the skin, which is known to reduce the risk certain types of skin cancer -- but there's more. Melanotan affects five separate systems in the body. Besides the melanin production, melanotan is an anti-inflammatory, promotes sexual arousal (directly, via the hypothalamus) and even suppresses appetites of the less carnal and more comestible kind.
EpiTan doesn't feel like spreading the word about Melanotan's ancillary benefits, though; They're focusing hard on the skin cancer aspects of the drug, which follows their primary business model. But others are very interested, and EpiTan will probably be seeking approval from the FDA for sales in the US as it works to gain it elsewhere. In the United States, tanning alone is big business, and it doesn't even scratch the surface of the money spent on obesity. A drug that offers a solution to two such high-dollar problems at once would seem to be the holy grail of pharmaceuticals -- if it flies.
- Website: EpiTan (http://www.epitan.com.au)
- Website: Arizona Cancer Center (http://www.azcc.arizona.edu)
- Website: Melanotan.org (http://melanotan.org)
- Wil McCarthy, Thin! Tan! Hotter Than Hell! Wired magazine, June 2002.