The Importance of Pigment Cell Research in the Americas

The Pan American Society for Pigment Cell Research is a scientific society which investigates the workings of cells which control pigmentation in living things. The society is highly active, with meetings once a year bringing clinicians, developmental biologists, biochemists, immunologists, cell biologists, molecular biologists, chemists, physicists and other researchers together to explore their findings in the field of pigment studies.

Many people take for granted the fact that living things contain a huge variety of colors. That variety is controlled by the cells which produce biological pigments. The molecules which provide the color work by absorbing only some of the sun’s wavelengths, reflecting the others back into the eyes of the observers. The reflected light is what we see, and the reflected wavelength of light registers as certain colors in our brain.

In humans, however, the variety of colors reflected by our pigmentation is vastly limited, because mammals use melanins for their pigmentation. Melanins reflect wavelengths which translate into a narrow range of coloring including black, brown, red, yellow and gold. However, before you begin to feel jealous of birds and fish, please take note that melanins have other functions which are crucial for successful mammal living. Melanins play a role in camouflage, species and gender identification, heat exchange, and protection from what we now know is dangerous UV radiation.

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