Melanotan II (CAS NO.121062-08-6) was first synthesized at the University of Arizona. Researchers decided to find a more potent and stable alternative, one that would be more practical to defenses against skin cancer.The researchers headed by Victor Hruby, found a peptide, [Nle4, D-Phe7]-α-MSH, that was approximately 1,000 times more potent than natural α-MSH after synthesizing and screening hundreds of molecules. They dubbed this new peptide, "Melanotan" (later Melanotan I, now known as afamelanotide). They subsequently developed another analog, Ac-Nle-cyclo[Asp-His-D-Phe-Arg-Trp-Lys]-NH2), which they named "Melanotan ⅡAcetate". Since their discovery, numerous studies dating back to the mid-1980s have found no obvious toxic effects of the Melanotan peptides. The scientists hoped to use Melanotan peptides to combat melanoma by stimulating the body's natural tanning mechanism to create a tan without first needing exposure to harmful levels of UV radiation. This in turn, they hypothesized, could reduce the potential for skin damage that can eventually lead to skin cancer.
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Melanotan II is a synthetic analogue of the peptide hormone α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH).It was under development as drug candidate for female sexual dysfunction and erectile dysfunction but clinical development ceased by 2003, and as of 2018, no product containing melanotan II was marketed and all commercial development had ceased. Unlicensed, untested, or fraudulent products sold as "melanotan II" are found on the Internet, and purported to be effective as "tanning drugs", though side effects such as uneven pigmentation, new nevi (moles), and darkening or enlargement of existing moles are common and have led to medical authorities discouraging use.