Could Coral Provide Sunscreen in a Pill?

For those of us who regularly forget to apply sunblock and for others who simply find it tedious, there could be an answer which comes from a natural resource in the oceans. British scientists have been working on a pill after studying how coral protects itself from the harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun in shallow waters. They took samples of coral which lived naturally in the waters of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and studied how the organism managed to shield itself from sunshine. It is thought that an algae within the coral produces a compound, an amino acid, which the coral then modifies to block the sun.

Scientists at King’s College London collected samples of coral during night dives and then exposed it to sunshine to see how the organism manufactured its own sunblock mechanism. Researcher Dr Paul Long said: “We found that the algae 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, so it is clearly passed up the food chain.” The pill would therefore work on humans as after taking it you would find it in your skin and eyes.

The scientists are working on a single pill which if successful, could provide weeks of protection for the skin and eyes, meaning that sun worshippers would no longer need to lather the sun cream on the outside of their bodies as the pill would be working form the inside. This would radically reduce the risks of cancer and help to combat the signs of ageing bought on by the sun. The pill does not provide a tan however so people who want a healthy looking suntan would have to either fake it or take to the tanning booths. It is thought that the pill could be available in less than 10 years if human testing is started in 5 years.

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