Photo Credit: health.howstuffworks
Scientists are saying a new sunscreen pill may be available on the market within the next five years. Current research has been studying the way coral protects itself from ultraviolet (UV) rays. Based on analyzing these properties, scientists believe these studies may pave the way for a similar compound that can help protect humans again harmful UV rays. In fact, if the proper compound is synthesized, it’s theorized that such a pill might actually prevent sunburn altogether.
Scientists are saying they’re close to creating this synthetic anti-sun compound, and that it would not only protect peoples skin, but also their eyes. If this product is finally created, it’s thought it will first become available as a prescription. Initial critique of the product is that until rigorously tested, it should be controlled so that people do not “overdose” or “harm their health.”
Coral is an animal. It is only able to survive because of the dependent relationship it has with algae. Algae actually lives inside the coral, and the coral’s sun protection is due to this relationship. Dr Paul Long is leading this project at King’s College London. Speaking on the matter he recently shared, “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.” “We are very close to being able to reproduce this compound in the lab, and if all goes well we would expect to test it within the next two years.”
Dr. Long is the man who facilitated an intelligent team of scientists who have analysed samples of coral from the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia. They collected coral by going out on diving excursions during nighttime hours. They then exposed the coral to the sun. Because of this interplay the scientists were thus able to watch the coral’s defensive mechanisms at work.
Before a potential product makes its way to the shelves of the public, tests must be conducted on human skin. The samples will be obtained from cosmetic surgeons, to help eliminate potential risks in the early stages of development before trying the compound on actual live people.
In the end, their goal is to create a pill that will protection the whole body from harmful UV rays. Of course since nothing like this exists, someone stands to potentially make a large sum from the creation of such a product. Toxicology tests will be lengthy, and perhaps this will be another product you see a commercial for that states what benefits the pill may have for you, while it then lists several other potential “side effects” that sound way too gnarly to even consider taking the pill.
On an interesting side note, researchers want to examine if something might come of this research that might lead to sun-tolerant crops. The idea is that such a discovery could boost world food supplies, since plants have a similar genetic pathway as corral.
Dr. Long believes the extra genes from coral might make it possible to cultivate crops that thrive in temperate environments, in tropical ones as well. Long further shared, “If we do this in crop plants that have been bred in temperate climates for high yield, but that at present would not grow in the tropics because of high exposure to sunlight, this could be a way of providing a sustainable nutrient-rich food source, particularly in need for [developing] world economies.”