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Publication Type
Conference Proceedings
Author, Analytic
McKenzie, Colin A.; Wakamatsu, Kazumasa; Ito, S.; Hanchard, Neil A.; Forrester, Terrence E.
Author Role
Presenters
Author Affiliation
Tropical Medicine Research Institute
Paper/Section Title
Total melanin content of hair is decreased in childhood malnutrition
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Proceedings Title
Nineteenth international pigment cell conference (IPCC): A focus on human pigmentary diseases
Date of Meeting
September 18-22, 2005
Place of Meeting
Reston, Virginia
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Publisher Name
Hyatt Regency Reston
Date of Publication
2005
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Abstract
Severe malnutrition in children is known to be associated with visible changes in hair color. However, no systematic analyses of hair melanin content have yet been carried out. The authors performed an analysis of scalp hairs in 8 Jamaican children diagnosed as having malnutrition (undernutrition, marasmus, kwashiorkor, or marasmic-kwashiorkor) during various stages of their treatment and after recovery. Eumelanin and pheomelanin were measured by HPLC methods. It was found that eumelanin comprised more than 99% of the total melanin content of the hairs. During malnutrition, there was a progressive decrease in melanin content from tip to middle to root (root/tip ratio: 0.480.18, P < 0.003). After recovery from malnutrition, the melanin levels in both the tips and the roots were increased. The values for the tips were, in fact, greater than those found in the roots during malnutrition (tips after recovery/roots during malnutrition: 1.340.68). The root/tip ratio in hair sampled from children after recovery was 0.850.31 which was not significantly different from 1 (P > 0.2). Thus, it appears that a decrease in total melanin content from tip to root may be associated with malnutrition while increases in the ratio to 1 mark normal nutritional status. It is possible that reduced intake or availability of tyrosine and/or phenylalanine may play a role in the reduction in hair melanin content during periods of malnutrition. The precise mechanisms by which melanin biosynthesis is reduced, and the role of aromatic amino acids in hair color change and other features of severe childhood malnutrition remain to be explored.....
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