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Black and White in ‘Shades of Grey

Melanin in the skin is produced by cells called melanocytes. These melanocytes insert grains of melanin into specialized compartments, called melanosomes. These melanosomes that accumulate over the cell nucleus, protect the DNA from the damaging mutations caused by the UV rays of the sun. Although all humans generally have the same number of melanocytes, the expression of the melanin producing genes in these cells varies in different individuals and different ethnic groups. This has generated a wide spectrum of skin shades and tones in individuals across the globe.

People, whose forefathers lived near the equator, are amply endowed with eumelanin in the skin and hair, imparting a brown or black color. This pigment acts as a natural sunscreen and renders protection while being exposed to the sun. The fair-skinned folks lack this protection and melanoma results. Besides, the dark-skinned people are blessed with more youthful suppleness, resulting in the production of fewer wrinkles. But, they run the risk of being vitamin D- deficient, as the high concentration of melanin could ward off sunlight, a primary requirement in the vitamin’s production.

If recent anthropological musings are to be believed, all of humanity has an African progenitor who, with his very high eumelanin content, was sufficiently equipped to face the blazing equatorial sun. But when the human race began to spread across the terrains of Europe and Asia, eumelanin was produced in accordance to the requirement, enhanced by the selective trends of nature. This resulted in a ‘descent with modification’ as proposed by Darwin, providing the phenotypic variations characteristic of the humans.

Discrimination, in some form or the other, has always been part of the history of the human race. Attempts should be made to connect individuals by treading the scientific path and by genera
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