Science

Blue-Green Algae Can Be Used To Protect Skin From UV Light; Promises A New Breed Of Sunscreen In The Future

By Joana Verdeflor , Jan 16, 2017 07:56 PM EST

BAT YAM, ISRAEL - AUGUST 02: (ISRAEL OUT) An Israeli woman rubs sunscreen on a Palestinian girl from the West Bank village of Jahalin as they spend the day at the beach on August 2, 2010, in Bat Yam, Israel. A group of Israeli women organizes a weekly visit for Palestinian children from all over the West Bank to the Israeli seaside, for most of the children this is the first time they get to the beach.

Blue Green Algae Or Cyanobacteria As Sunscreen?

A new breed of sunscreen and anti-wrinkle treatments may just be on it way- as scientists have found a way to understand how blue-green algae protects itself from ultraviolet rays. Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, is able to make special sunscreen molecules mycosporine and mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs).

These compounds provide protection to the bacteria by absorbing UV light. This exhibits an important trait in organisms, specifically, the ones that thrive on sunlight even before the Earth's atmosphere was able to block its harmful radiation.

Scientists have already learned about bio-sunscreens. A certain company manufacturing cosmetics even use MAAs of blue-green algae in making the anti-wrinkle cream called Helioguard 365. Recently, scientists have discovered how these compounds can be manufactured - an excellent breakthrough in coming up with biosynthetic versions.

Harvard Medical School researchers named which genes are responsible for producing sunscreen molecules- according to a study published in the Science journal. Emily Balskus and Christopher Walsh specifically identified the cluster of genes in a certain type of blue-green algae. According to them, this cluster could be responsible for sunscreen production. As proof to this, the gene cluster produced sunscreens when turned on in E. coli bacteria.

According to the study, four enzymes are involved in the manufacture of the MAAs. The MAA consists of 2 amino acids linked to a central group. The links enable identification of the wavelength and strength in terms of UV absorbance, according to New Scientist. The usual sunscreen lotions in the market have been made from compounds that absorb and reflect UV light. This ability enables them to protect the skin from the harmful radiation of the sun. However, they have limitations- they are not able to block all types of UV radiation.

A recent study by the Environmental Working Group showed data that sunscreens can cause cancer in the skin. The basis for this is their Vitamin A content that causes skin damage. An organic biological compound that has the ability to absorb UV light, however, can uplift this limitation-therefore paving a major step in skin protection.

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