The chemical fingerprint of hair melanosomes by infrared nano-spectroscopy

V. Stanic, F. C. B. Maia, R. de O. Freitas, F. E. Montoro and K. Evans-Lutterodt

Nanoscale, Advance Article (2018)
In situ characterization of the chemical and structural properties of black and white sheep hair was performed with a spatial resolution of 25 nm using infrared nano-spectroscopy. Comparing data sets from two types of hair allowed us to isolate the keratin FTIR fingerprint and so mark off chemical properties of the hair's melanosomes. From a polarization sensitive analysis of the nano-FTIR spectra, we showed that keratin intermediate filaments (IFs) present anisotropic molecular ordering. In stark contrast with white hair which does not contain melanosomes, in black hair, we spatially resolved single melanosomes and achieved unprecedented assignment of the vibrational modes of pheomelanin and eumelanin. The in situ experiment presented here avoids harsh chemical extractive methods used in previous studies. Our findings offer a basis for a better understanding of the keratin chemical and structural packing in different hair phenotypes as well as the involvement of melanosomes in hair color and biological functionality.