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Matthew Berns

DPhil student

research interests

Melanin, a biopolymer synthesized in melanocytes, is responsible for skin, hair, and eye color. Disruption of melanocortin-1-receptor (MC1R) signalling, which regulates melanin synthesis, generates red hair in humans due to increased pheomelanin (red-yellow) and reduced eumelanin (black-brown) pigment. Importantly, humans carrying MC1R variants not only have red hair, but also have fair skin, poor tanning response, and increased susceptibility to melanoma development, the most lethal form of cutaneous cancer. However, it remains unclear as to why decreased MC1R signalling alters pigmentation and increases melanoma susceptibility. Therefore, the aim of my work is to elucidate the mechanism(s) that leads to these phenomena. A better understanding of this pathway will provide new insights on how to best prevent the development/mitigate the severity of melanoma.


I earned my B.S (Biology, Geology) from the University of Cincinnati. Following university, I worked as a research assistant in the laboratory of Jim Wells (Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center). There I studied neural crest biology in the context of enteric nervous system formation in the murine and human foregut. I am currently a medical student at Ohio University, and DPhil student via the NIH Oxford-Cambridge Scholars Program.