School of Food and Biological Engineering, and School of Life Sciences, Jiangsu University, Zhenjiang, China
Melanin has been reported to have potential applications in industries such as cosmetics and food due to its anti-UV and antioxidative qualities. However, the corresponding data on its safety evaluation or biological consequences are fairly limited; such data are critical given its widespread use. The effect of different concentrations (1, 2, 3, and 4%) of melanin on growth status (larvae length and weight, cocoon weight, and morphology), the microstructure of the various tissues (fat body, silk gland, and midgut), and silk properties was studied by using the silkworm (bombyx mori) as the model organism. The weight and length of silkworm larvae fed with melanin were lower than the control, indicating that melanin appears to have a negative effect on the growth status of silkworms; however, the histophysiology analysis indicates that the cell morphologies are not changed, the XRD and FTIR spectra indicate that the secondary and crystalline structures of silks are also well preserved, and the thermogravimetric analysis and tensile test indicate that the thermal stability and mechanical properties are well maintained and even improved to some extent. Generally, it indicates that melanin has a certain inhibitory effect on the growth of silkworm larva but causes no harm to the cell microstructures or silk properties; this demonstrates that the safety of melanin as a food additive should be considered seriously. The increase of thermal stability and mechanical properties shows that melanin may be a good chemical modifier in textile industries..
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