Recently, pheomelanin has been found to play a critical role in melanoma progression given its pro-oxidant chemical properties as well as its marked presence in pre-cancerous and malignant melanoma lesions, even in the absence of ultraviolet radiation. In addition, epidemiological evidence indicates a strong correlation between melanoma incidence and skin type, with the highest incidence occurring in individuals of the red-haired/fair-skinned phenotype. Interestingly, nevus count correlates well with melanoma incidence and skin type, except in the population most prone to developing melanoma, where nevus count strikingly drops. As such, a current hypothesis proposes that fair-skinned red-haired individuals, who are unable to stimulate production of eumelanin due to a mutation in MC1R in melanocytes, may actually harbor numerous “invisible”, pheomelanin-rich nevi that evade clinical detection, supporting the high incidence of melanoma in that population.
Here, we show for the very first time that melanocytes extracted from genetically modified MC1R-mutant, red-haired mice displayed bright perinuclear distributions of signal within the cells under coherent anti-Stokes Raman scattering (CARS) microscopy. Changes in pheomelanin production in siRNA knockdowns of cultured human melanoma cells were also sensed. We then successfully imaged pheomelanin distributions in both ex vivo and in vivo mouse ear skin. Finally, melanosomes within amelanotic melanoma patient tissue sections were found to show bright pheomelanin signals. This is the first time, to our knowledge, that pheomelanin has been found spatially localized in a human amelanotic melanoma sample. These pheomelanotic CARS features may be used as potential biomarkers for melanoma detection, especially for amelanotic melanomas.
Hequn Wang, Sam Osseiran, Elisabeth Roider, David E. Fisher, and Conor L. Evans, "New imaging-based biomarkers for melanoma diagnosis using coherent Raman Scattering microscopy (Conference Presentation)," Proc. SPIE 9689, Photonic Therapeutics and Diagnostics XII, 968904 (Presented at SPIE BiOS: February 13, 2016; Published: 27 April 2016); https://doi.org/10.1117/12.2213360.4828028214001.
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