In the future, there may be no reason to ever leave the great indoors. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have developed a drug that can give even the most ardent indoorsman a healthy, tanned glow without sunlight or damaging UV radiation.
The drug, specifically a protein called salt-inducible kinase (SIK), according to Cell Reports, tricks the skin into producing melanin—the pigment that causes tanning and darker skin. The results have been promising so far, with the compound triggering the skin to produce a temporary tan before reverting back to the natural skin tone once the treatment ended. Dr. David Fisher, one of the researchers, told BBC News, “Under the microscope it’s the real melanin; it really is activating the production of pigment in a UV-independent fashion.”
That means it’s a “real” tan, unlike the assortment of bronzers and spray tans favored by the cast of Dancing With the Stars.
The team hopes that the pill will serve as a “novel strategy” for reducing cancer, as it could mean fewer people will resort to laying out in the sun, despite the increased skin-cancer risk that comes with such activities. The new compound should work on all skin types, too, because it merely ramps up the body’s natural melanin production. However, researchers believe it will be most effective on fair-skinned people who are at greatest risk for developing skin cancer.
It’s important to note that while increased melanin does provide some UV protection, the pill is not a replacement for sunblock. Eventually the scientists hope to combine their tanning drug with sunblock for maximum protection.
The pill is still a ways off, though, as it has only been tested in the lab. So far the drug has resulted in some very tan mice.