The university research team says it has managed to clarify the three-dimensional structure of the melanin enzyme tyrosinase, according to a report on the Daily Yomiuri Online.
In turn the discovery has allowed the research team to give tyrosinase a chemical formula that should help develop substances that are effective in preventing pigment formation that can lead to dark, blotchy, dull or freckled skin.
Researchers working within this field worldwide have long battled to unlock the secret code of tyrosinase in an effort to create a more effective formulation to tackle such skin imperfections.
Skin whitening products are becoming increasingly popular across the globe as individuals strive to achieve a brighter, healthier looking skin.
Throughout the Asia Pacific region certain interpretations of beauty dictate that women, and increasingly men, have an unblemished and light skin colour.
Equally, older individuals throughout the world suffering from liver spots and other age-related skin darkening conditions are increasingly turning to skin lightening formulations in an effort to maintain what is perceived to be a clearer and more youthful looking skin.
Professor Masanori Sugiyama said the discovery of the tyrosinase structure would help his research team to develop ingredients that could be used in a variety of skin whitening formulations.
According to the report the research team said they extracted the tyrosinase from the bacillus ray fungus. The extract was then examined under a microscope in 1,000 different solutions, before it was discovered it could be made into crystals using a polyethylene solution.
The resulting crystallized form then enabled the team to determine the exact structure of the tyrosine using a synchrotron radiation facility.
The rise and rise of the skin whitening segment has seen it turned in to a major skin care category worldwide, but major the biggest markets still remain in the Asia Pacific region, where countries such as Taiwan, Japan and South Korea continue to account for the majority of sales.
Major players in the market include Japanese players such as Kanebo and Shiseido, that offer full skin whitening lines including facial care creams, toners and even facial wipes.
But huge growth in the China market is also helping to boost the segment, which is currently dominated by a number of domestic brands.
Industry observers drew on Biersdorf's successful launch of a Nivea-branded skin whitening product for men in the Asian mark as one of the most significant launches of 2005. It not only marked the phenomenal growth of this category, but also highlighted the growth of male skin care in Asia, which until very recently has remained very small.