For all those who get a headache trying to remember to slather on sunscreen every time you step out of the house, fret not; there may soon be a much easier way to fend off the sunburn.
Researchers at Oregon State University have discovered that many animal species produce their own sunscreen, and have been doing it for millions of years, through some prehistoric genetic engineering.
From rainbow trout ﬁsh to the American alligator, green sea-turtles to farmyard chickens, many birds, reptiles, amphibians and ﬁsh naturally produce a substance called gadusol. This magical chemical protects them from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultra-violet rays.
It was previously thought that this compound was acquired through diet, but recent research has put this theory to rest, indicating that the ability to manufacture gadusol naturally is an evolutionary development. As opposed to being introduced to animals through microbes in their food, the gadusol-synthesizing process works in a completely different way.
In a study, researchers transferred the genes responsible for making gadusol in zebra ﬁsh to fungi, speciﬁcally yeast, which were then able to produce the chemical.
Professor Taifo Mahmud, who teaches at OSU and is the lead scientist in the research related to gadusol, is excited about the prospect of manufacturing the compound in high quantities using yeast, and inducting it into sunscreen cosmetics. He hopes the day is not far when instead of rubbing sunscreen on our bodies, we’ll just have to take a pill that will provide long-lasting sun-protection.
Whether used as a systemic sun-protection or an anti-oxidant, the pill is likely to be a popular product, especially since we won’t have to worry about losing the sun-protection after a sweaty run in the park or a swim in the ocean.