Soon there could be a sunscreen pill for humans. Researchers from Oregon State University in the US found that zebra fish are able to produce a chemical called gadusol that protects against ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The scientists successfully reproduced the method that zebra fish use by expressing the relevant genes in yeast. The study findings open the door to large-scale production of gadusol for sunscreen and as an antioxidant in pharmaceuticals.
Lead author of the study professor Taifo Mahmud said, "The fact that the compound is produced by fish, as well as by other animals including birds, makes it a safe prospect to ingest in pill form. However, further studies will be needed to test if and how gadusol is absorbed, distributed, and metabolized in the body to check its efficacy and safety."
Marine organisms in the upper ocean and on reefs are often subject to intense and often unrelenting sunlight. Gadusol and related compounds are of great scientific interest for their ability to protect against DNA damage from ultraviolet rays. It was previously thought that fish can only acquire gadusol through their diet or through a symbiotic relationship with bacteria.
Mahmud said, "In the future it may be possible to use yeast to produce large quantities of this natural compound for sunscreen pills and lotions, as well as for other cosmetics sold at your local supermarket or pharmacy."
The study appears in the eLife