Unlike conventional sunscreen lotions which merely act as a filter for UVA and UVB sunlight, the new ingredient releases an active ingredient which mops up free iron that is released when the skin burns.
This reduces the inflammation and pain that goes with sunburn – which is exacerbated by the iron - and also prevents the build up of harmful sunlight-generated free radicals, which can lead to the development of skin cancers.
The new ingredient is light-responsive and only becomes active when it is exposed to UV radiation in sunlight, avoiding any side-effects that might result from long-term exposure to the active form of the drug.
The researchers are currently testing prototypes of the ingredient in the laboratory using three dimensional human skin cultures, but expect to be trialling the ingredient with volunteers in the next two to three years.
“When skin is exposed to high doses of sunlight, such as when you are sunbathing, a massive amount of free iron is released in skin cells,” said Dr Charareh Pourzand from the University of Bath who is working in collaboration with Dr James Dowden (presently at Nottingham University).
“This free iron can act as catalysts for the generation of more harmful free radicals that cause severe cell damage.
“Many forms of cancer are thought to be the result of reactions between free radicals and DNA, causing mutations that can disrupt the cell cycle and potentially lead to cancer.
“We wanted to find a way of mopping up sunlight-generated free iron that produce harmful radicals during exposure to bright sunlight in order to prevent the unwanted side reactions that can lead to skin damage and ultimately cancer.
“The best way to do this is using chelators, drugs that bind and export iron from the body.
“However, long term use of chelators can be toxic for cells as it starves them of the iron necessary for normal biological processes, for example the red blood cells that transport oxygen around the body need iron to work.”
Additional hurdles in the research were that many chelators are ineffective protectors of cells, and many of them are patented and so cannot be used freely by all researchers.
The researchers had to find chelators which were strong enough to export the excess iron out of cells, but that would not have an adverse effect on other essential cellular processes.
After three years of research, the team has designed two commercially attractive prototypes which are currently in laboratory trials.
The prototypes contain ‘caged’ iron binding sites which release the chelators only in response to high doses of UV light, thus avoiding toxicity to cells.
The new sunscreens containing these components will not only contribute to preventing and repairing skin damage caused by UV light, but will also be more effective and will last longer (up to three hours) after application on the skin than conventional sunscreen lotions.
Skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the UK and the number of people who get it is increasing. There are over 70,000 new cases of skin cancer diagnosed each year in the UK and many cases are not reported so the real number of cases is probably much higher.Over 2,000 people die from skin cancer each year in the UK.
“UVB affects the outer layer of the skin and is the primary agent responsible for skin blistering and peeling after sunburn.”
“UVA sunlight is typically associated with the cooler parts of hot summer days, before 10am and after 3pm.”
“UVA was once thought to have a minor effect on skin damage, but now it is considered to be a major contributor as it penetrates deeper into the skin than UVB.”
“It is overexposure to UVA that causes the redness and inflammation, or erythema, associated with sunburn.”
“The UVA component of sunlight is dangerous as it acts as an oxidising agent that forms free radicals which trigger chain reactions that potentially lead to DNA damage that can convert healthy skin cells into cancerous ones.”
The original research paper, Caged-Iron Chelators a Novel Approach Towards Protecting Skin Cells Against UV A-Induced Necrotic Cell Death, is available online from the Journal for Investigative Dermatology.
The research was funded by a Wellcome Trust Showcase Award.
Andrew McLaughlin | alfa
Multi-institutional collaboration uncovers how molecular machines assemble
02.12.2016 | Salk Institute
Fertilized egg cells trigger and monitor loss of sperm’s epigenetic memory
02.12.2016 | IMBA - Institut für Molekulare Biotechnologie der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften GmbH
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy