A new study conducted by researchers at University of California, San Diego has found that the red burns caused on the skin after being exposed to the sun are the result of the immune response triggered by the removal of damaged RNA in the cells.
In the study, published in the online edition of the journal Nature Medicine, the researchers found that the ultraviolet B radiation leads to the breakup of elements of a special type of RNA, known as non-coding micro-RNA, which are released by the skin cells when exposed to radiation.
The neighboring healthy cells then trigger an inflammatory response to remove these damaged cells, leading to the formation of red burns on the skin.
"The inflammatory response is important to start the process of healing after cell death. We also believe the inflammatory process may clean up cells with genetic damage before they can become cancer. Of course, this process is imperfect and with more UV exposure, there is more chance of cells becoming cancerous", lead researcher Dr Richard Gallo said.