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Melanin Nanoparticles Obtained from Preformed Recombinant Melanin by Bottom-Up and Top-Down Approaches

Melanin is an insoluble, amorphous polymer that forms planar sheets that aggregate naturally to create colloidal particles with several biological functions. Based on this, here, a preformed recombinant melanin (PRM) was utilized as the polymeric raw material to generate recombinant melanin nanoparticles (RMNPs). These nanoparticles were prepared using bottom-up (nanocrystallization—NC, and double emulsion–solvent evaporation—DE) and top-down (high-pressure homogenization—HP) manufacturing approaches. The particle size, Z-potential, identity, stability, morphology, and solid-state properties were evaluated. RMNP biocompatibility was determined in human embryogenic kidney (HEK293) and human epidermal keratinocyte (HEKn) cell lines. RMNPs prepared by NC reached a particle size of 245.9 ± 31.5 nm and a Z-potential of −20.2 ± 1.56 mV; 253.1 ± 30.6 nm and −39.2 ± 0.56 mV compared to that obtained by DE, as well as RMNPs of 302.2 ± 69.9 nm and −38.6 ± 2.25 mV using HP. Spherical and solid nanostructures in the bottom-up approaches were observed; however, they were an irregular shape with a wide size distribution when the HP method was applied. Infrared (IR) spectra showed no changes in the chemical structure of the melanin after the manufacturing process but did exhibit an amorphous crystal rearrangement according to calorimetric and PXRD analysis. All RMNPs presented long stability in an aqueous suspension and resistance to being sterilized by wet steam and ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Finally, cytotoxicity assays showed that RMNPs are safe up to 100 μg/mL. These findings open new possibilities for obtaining melanin nanoparticles with potential applications in drug delivery, tissue engineering, diagnosis, and sun protection, among others.

Publication date: 19/05/2023

Author: Sergio Alcalá-Alcalá

Reference: doi: 10.3390/polym15102381

MDPI (polymers)


This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 870292.