A pilot phase I study was conducted with a cyclic heptapeptide analog of α-melanocyte stimulating hormone (α-MSH). The lactam-bridged molecule, called Melanotan-II (MT-II), has the structure Ac-Nle4-Asp5-His6-D-Phe7-Arg8-Trp9-Lys10α-MSH4-10-NH2 (MT-II) and has superpotent melanotropic activity in vitro. A single-blind, alternating day (saline or MT-II), placebo-controlled trial was conducted in 3 normal male volunteers at the starting dose of 0.01 mg/kg of MT-II. Subcutaneous injections of MT-II or saline were given daily (Monday-Friday) for 2 consecutive weeks. Two subjects were escalated by 0.005 mg/kg increments to 0.03 mg/kg and one to 0.025 mg/kg. The 0.03 mg/kg dose produced Grade II somnolence and fatigue in one of two subjects (WHO standards). Mild nausea, not requiring antiemetic treatment, was reported at most MT-II dose levels. A stretching and yawning complex appeared to correlate with the onset of spontaneous, penile erections which were intermittently experienced for 1-5 hours after MT-II dosing, depending on the MT-II dose. Two subjects had increased pigmentation in the face, upper body and buttock, as measured by quantitative reflectance and by visual perception 1 week after MT-II dosing ended. These results demonstrate that MT-II has tanning activity in humans given only 5 low doses every other day by subcutaneous injection. The recommended single MT-II dose for future Phase I studies is 0.025 mg/kg/day.
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