Melanocyte milestones now live
The Genetics of Human Pigmentary Disorders
Jonathan L Rees1
1Department of Dermatology, The University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
Correspondence: Jonathan L. Rees, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
17 November 2011 | doi:10.1038/skinbio.2011.5
Interest in the genetics of human and animal pigmentation is longstanding. Variation in human pigmentary form—of skin, hair, and eyes—is one of the most striking polymorphic human traits. Ever since Charles Darwin, biologists have been asking how and why did Nature fashion men so differently across the earth? Moving beyond what we might consider natural physiological variation in skin color to the pathological, human pigmentary disorders such as albinism is often clinically striking. Therefore, some syndromes were described early in modern medical history, and what we would now recognize as modern genetic insights into their nature were present almost as early as the rediscovery of Gregor Mendel’s work just over a century ago.
The two decades spanning the start of the twenty-first century have been extraordinarily productive for those interested in human pigment genetics. Of course, the influence and power of what was once called the “New Genetics” has been felt across much of modern biomedicine, but to this skin-watcher, at least, few areas of study have seen such progress with apparently so modest an investment in funding. Recounting the story of this advance is necessary not merely to pay homage to those who laid the foundations that later successes were built on, but also as a lesson for those working in other fields of biomedicine where the problems often appear less tractable.