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Saturday 15th June 2019

Sunscreen pill could be on its way

31st August 2011

Coral looks set to play a role in a potential sunscreen pill for humans.


A team of scientists from King’s College London has been working on the project.

They hope to use coral’s natural defence against the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays to make the new sunscreen pill for and have visited the Great Barrier Reef in Australia to further their research.

That has involved work to uncover the genetic and biochemical processes behind coral’s defence mechanism by studying samples of the endangered Acropora coral, which the team believes can synthetically replicate in the lab the key compounds responsible.

Tests on humans are set to start shortly, firstly with a lotion containing the same compounds as those in coral and then a tablet.

Team leader Dr Paul Long said: “We couldn't and wouldn't want to use the coral itself as it is an endangered species.”

Scientists have known for some time that coral and some algae could protect themselves from the harsh UV rays in tropical climates by producing their own sunscreens but it is only with this latest research that they have begun to discover how they do that.

Dr Long added: “What we have found is that the algae living within the coral makes a compound that we think is transported to the coral, which then modifies it into a sunscreen for the benefit of both the coral and the algae.

“Not only does this protect them both from UV damage, but we have seen that fish that feed on the coral also benefit from this sunscreen protection.”


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