Methodology for Evaluation of Melanin Content and Production of Pigment Cells in Vitro


  • This invited paper is part of the Symposium-in-Print: Melanins.

*email: (Dan-Ning Hu)


Melanin has a photo-screening, a biophysical/biochemical and a cosmetic effect. Melanin content of cultured pigmented cells can be measured by spectrophotometry and expressed either as melanin content per cell or melanin content per culture (area). Melanin production can be calculated from melanin content and cell number at the beginning and at the end of a culture using various formulas and expressed as melanin production per cell per day or melanin production per culture per day. Melanin content or production per cell have been used widely to compare melanin content in various cell lines or to compare the melanin content during different stages in the culture (e.g. growing stage and senescent stage). For the evaluation of changes in melanin content and production in a given pigment cell line after treatment with a special chemical, physical or biological stimulator or inhibitor, different parameters used for the evaluation of experimental data can lead to conflicting results. Melanin content per area is determined by melanin content per cell and the number of cells in this area. The biological and cosmetic effects of melanin in vivo are determined mainly by melanin content per area, not melanin content per cell. For example, if melanin content per cell is the same, but the number of cells in a given area is increased after the treatment, then the melanin content per area is also increased. Under this circumstance, the color of skin turns darker and the total antioxidant activity provided by melanin in this area is increased even though the melanin content per cell measured remains the same; therefore, melanin content or production per culture is more important than melanin content or production per cell under this circumstance.