Pill to protect against sun damage on the cards
Post by Kelly Swift
on 01 September 2011 in Health & Wellbeing
Scientists have uncovered a secret from the sea that could mean a sunscreen pill is developed in the next five years.
Researchers have discovered that humans could learn from the way in which coral shields itself from the sun’s UV rays, and have started work on a sun protection pill for skin and eyes.
British scientists involved in the development are already close to producing the essential compound, meaning the final product could be available by 2016. It has been suggested that this type of pill will be prescription-only to prevent overdoses which could lead to a harmful reduction in the natural production of vitamin D – which is essential for strong bones.
Coral survives because of its relationship with the algae living within it, and this is the naturally-occurring compound that could pave the way for a revolution in sun protection for humans.
Dr Paul Long, head of the research project at King's College London, said: “What we have found is that the algae living within the coral makes a compound that we think is transported to the coral, which then modifies it into a sunscreen for the benefit of both the coral and the algae.
“Not only does this protect them both from UV damage, but we have seen that fish that feed on the coral also benefit from this sunscreen protection, so it is clearly passed up the food chain. This led us to believe that if we can determine how this compound is created and passed on, we could biosynthetically develop it in a laboratory to create a sunscreen for human use, perhaps in the form of a tablet, which would work in a similar way.”
Testing is expected to commence in two years, on skin samples provided by cosmetic surgeons.