Bacteria can be engineered to produce natural sunscreen

Ancient bacteria might hold the key to better sunscreen.
Written by Boonsri Dickinson, Contributing Editor

Ironically, the very sunscreen that you find at your local drug store can cause skin cancer, as it contains compounds that can cause skin damage. Ideally, you'd want to use sunscreen that is natural.

You probably already know this — your skin is covered in bacteria. This is why scientists are looking into cyanobacteria, a blue-green algae, for some clues to develop sunscreen to protect us from harmful UV exposure.

Cyanobacteria have been around forever. For 3.4 billion years, the bacteria have been getting their energy from the sun through photosynthesis.

Specifically, the scientists looked at tiny molecules called mycosporines and mycosporine-like amino acids to see if they could block UV radiation.

However, using the compounds in cosmetics isn't new — one company already uses it in an anti-wrinkle cream called Helioguard 365.

In this study, the researchers identified a particular gene cluster in the bacteria that offers protection against harmful rays.

When the genes were activated in E. coli bacteria, bio-sunscreen was engineered.

Sunscreen innovation is underway in other labs. Recently, I wrote about Ohio researchers who discovered the how a key enzyme repairs sun-damaged DNA:

Imaging lathering yourself with subatomic sunscreen before you venture out into the sun. The sunscreen could do more than just protect your skin from harmful ultraviolet light — it could fix your sun-damaged skin instantly.

However, the pro-active skin care products are a bit futuristic. But the idea of using products that can rapidly repair DNA might one day be possible thanks to a laboratory discovery made by Ohio State University scientists.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

via Popular Science

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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