Lather Up: New Sunscreen Based On Marine Animals May Protect You Better Than Your Current Sunscreen

Sunscreen
Researchers have found a new sunscreen made of slime, algae, and shrimp shells might be the key to protecting humans from harmful UV rays. César Guadarrama CC BY-ND 2.0

It’s summertime, and that means going outside and catching some sun. Many people heading outside also bring along a bottle of sunscreen to protect themselves from the harmful UV rays, but do you know exactly what goes into that bottle? If scientists have their way, the sunscreen of the future may be a lot different, according to a new study.

A group of researchers from AlbaNova University Center and University of the Basque Country have designed a new sunscreen that may rely on the power of marine animals to deflect the sun’s rays. Using slime, algae, and shrimp shells, the new sunscreen is aimed at protecting human skin, as well as being compatible with textiles and other outdoor objects.

“In our work we have exploited the same type of mycosporines produced in many fish species of the Great Barrier Reef to protect their eyes and tissues from UV light," said Vincent Bulone, who led the research and is also the new head of the ARC Center of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls at the University of Adelaide, according to Tech Times.

The researchers wondered how fish and other marine animals were able to swim day and night without feeling the effects of harmful UV light. This type of light is naturally hazardous to all living things; it disturbs the natural state of cells. Bulone and his team wanted to develop a product that addressed protected people from harmful UV rays, while also being midful of the environment.

In what seems like something straight out of science fiction, researchers extracted mycosporines and mycosporine-like amino acids, which are naturally occurring sunscreen molecules from algae. They then combined those amino acids with biopolymer found in crustaceans and insects, called chitosan — this was used as the source for transplanting the UV-resistant mycosporines.

The materials seemed to be biocompatible, thermoresistant, and photoresistant, and exhibited optimum protection from both UVA and UVB radiations. The sunscreen, researchers believe, is a great option for sun protection and may even be better than the sunscreens currently on the market — many of which perform worse than their labels advertise. 

Sunscreen protects the skin from these harmful rays and thus helps to prevent skin cancer, the most common form of cancer. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, each year, there are more new cases of skin cancer than breast, colon, prostate, and lung cancer combined. 

Source: Fernandes S, Alonso-Varona A, Palomares T, Zubillaga V, Labidi J, Bulone V. Exploiting Mycosporines as Natural Molecular Sunscreens for the Fabrication of UV-Absorbing Green Materials. Applied Materials & Interfaces. 2015. 

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