Ever wondered why fishes don’t get sunburnt?
That question has inspired bio-technologists to develop a new type of sun protection that’s made from the same amino acids found in some fish mucus, algae and bacteria. Potentially, it’s fish goo for the skin.
The scientists involved say this sunscreen is not only biodegradable and natural, it’s more stable and actually works better than the inorganic lotion you smear on your skin every summer.
So how does it work?
Fish and many other species can swim around in the sun all day because they are naturally protected from damage caused by the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Different fish species use different methods but some use a family of amino acids to block out damaging radiation from the sun.
Professor Bulone and other scientists at Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology were able to extract the UV-resistant mycosporines and attach them to a lattice derived from the shells of crustaceans and insects.
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,” Professor Bulone said.
If developed commercially for sunscreen the bioengineered molecules could replace inorganic nanoparticle compounds such as titanium oxide and zinc oxide.
Known as “mycosporine-like amino acids” (MAA), the natural UV-blockers are conjugated, or bonded with, a biopolymer matrix, called chitosan (CS). Researchers found that the resulting “CS-MAA conjugates” are “efficient against both short-wavelength UV-B radiations responsible for … sunburn and long-wavelength UV-A radiations”.
Ultraviolet (UV) radiation, in the forms of longwave ultraviolet A (UVA) and shortwave ultraviolet B (UVB) destroy Vitamin A in the skin, which can cause a greater risk of skin cancer, premature aging, wrinkling, and loss of elasticity in the skin.
Though extracting the algae-derived molecules is an expensive process, Bulone believes that productions could be done by engineering bacteria.
This has been [possible] since the early 90s. It’s not a cheap process, but it can be done,” he added.