Deterination of the melanin content in the skin of albinos at the University Teaching Hospital, Lusaka, Zambia

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Ndhlovu, Dailesi.
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University of Zambia
BACKGROUND: Melanin is a skin pigment that determines skin colour and plays a role in photoprotection. It represents one of the most visible markers of human variation and skin disorders. Lack of Melanin or presence of very little melanin or albinism makes the skin susceptible to a wide range of damages and diseases such as skin cancers caused by ultraviolet rays from the sun. The aim of this study was to demonstrate and quantify the melanin in albinos compared to normal indigenous black skin. METHODS: This was a case-controlled study which was conducted at the University Teaching Hospital Dermatology and Pathology departments. The study recruited 12 cases’ who were clinically diagnosed albinos and 12 normal black indigenous Zambians who were the controls. Skin biopsies from the study participants were taken from the radial aspect of the forearm and were cut into two parts. One part was fixed in 10% neutral buffered formalin, processed, and sectioned using a microtome then one tissue section was stained with H&E stain and the other tissue section was stained with the Mason-Fontana staining technique to determine the presence of melanin in the skins. The other second part, melanin was extracted assayed using the Human melanin ELISA kit and measured using a spectrophotometer. RESULTS: In this study, 12 albino participants were recruited. The majority were males (n = 7, 58.3%) and 5 were females who represented 41.6%. The youngest was 14 years and the oldest was 40 years old, the mean age was 23. Melanin was only present in a biopsy of only one female case (n=1) and all the remaining skin biopsies (n=11) had no melanin as demonstrated using the Mason-Fontana technique. However in all normal indigenous black skin it was present; all the biopsies contained melanin after being assayed using the human melanin Elisa kit. The mean standard deviation of the melanin concentration of albinos was (102 ±62.5 pg/ml) and the normal indigenous blacks was (127 ±29.0pg/ml), p = 0.223. CONCLUSION: This study has showed that not all individuals who have been clinically diagnosed with albinism lack melanin even though phenotypically may appear without any melanin. The presence of melanin has some clinical significance, though albinos phenotypically appear to lack melanin, susceptibility to skin cancers differ because of their variation in the amount of melanin in their skin.
Human skin color. , Melanins--Physiological effect. , Albinos and albinism.