Study points towards sunscreen pill made from coral

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

A team of UK scientists at the Kings College London say that research they are conducting could lead a sunscreen in the form of to a pill made from a coral compound .

The scientists have discovered that a coral-derived compound acts as an efficient screen against UV rays and further research could eventually lead to a injested treatment that would fit in with the fast-growing beauty from within category.

The team of scientists, who are being sponsored as part of a three-year project by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) say that at this point they have begun to uncover the genetic and biochemical processes behind how these compounds are produced.

Ultimately further research to build on this discovery could lead the scientists to recreate the compounds synthetically in the laboratory for use in developing sun protection, the scientists claim.

Coral from the Great Barrier Reef

The samples for the project have been collected from the Great Barrier Reef, in Australia, and the research project will be carried out in association with the Australian Institute for Marine Sciences and the University of Maine, USA.

The research will focus on the fact that coral has a unique symbiotic relationship with the algae that lives inside it. This algae uses photosynthesis to make food for the coral, while waste products are then used by the algae for photosynthesis.

Because the photosynthesis needs sunlight to take place, the coral lives in shallow waters, which exposes the coral to potentially damaging levels of UV rays.

Although the scientists already know that the algae and the coral have developed sunscreen properties to protect themselves, the research project is focused on discovering exactly what this process is about.

The coral modifies the compound into a sunscreen

“What we have found is that the algae living within the coral makes a compound that we this is transported to the coral, which then modifies it into a sunscreen for the benefit of both the coral and the algae,”​ said Dr. Paul Long, senior lecturer from Institute of Pharmaceutical Science, at King’s College London.

Dr. Long says he believes the research team has identified a compound produced by the algae, which is then transmitted to the coral, where it is then modified into a sunscreen. Further research will try to uncover exactly how this process takes place.

The research has also pin-pointed the fact that fish feeding on the coral also benefit from the UV sunscreen properties of the compound, leading the scientists to believe that the sunscreen could work for humans in pill form by biosynthetically developing the compound in a laboratory.

Beauty From Within Conference 2012

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