During more than a decade of clinical research on Clinuvel’s proprietary drug afamelanotide, our teams have specialised in, and focused on, the study and importance of light absorption for our health and well-being.
However, light is regarded as an ‘optical paradox’: too little may result in vitamin D deficiency or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), while too much may result in skin cancer. In seeking answers from related fields, our in-house scientists often remark that human biology is unfortunate to lack green chlorophyll with its ability to efficiently process light into nutrition.
By deepening our knowledge of extreme conditions following light toxicity, the Clinuvel team has arrived at diseases such as porphyria. In this particularly severe disorder, the patients’ skin continuously generates a highly light-sensitive molecule, restricting their ability to tolerate light; the biochemical irony is that the harmful porphyrin molecule chemically resembles the structure of chlorophyll. Throughout our five years of focus on porphyria, we have been studying how to control the effect of blue-spectrum light on skin and thereby protect these patients.
Invisible UV (from outdoors and sun beds) can play mind games with us: we indulge in recreational UV exposure and are prone to ignore possible future consequences. Worse, when thinking about UV and sun, we assign the lowest probability of photo-damage to ourselves and highest likelihood to others.
At Clinuvel, these issues are very much part of the development of the new ‘photoprotective’ afamelanotide. Our scientific team manages to carefully differentiate between the various wavelengths when treating symptoms: at 408 nanometers we interpret skin reactions in porphyria differently than those at UVA2 (320-340 nanometers) in solar urticaria. This precision has significantly determined how we use afamelanotide to regulate the body’s absorption of light.