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Green sunscreens for summer
February 24, 2018, 4:14 pm

In a few months we will be basking in the heat of summer this means among other things we will have to load up on sunscreens. Sunscreen is key to protecting the skin from carcinogenic UV-B radiation present in sunlight. However, many synthetic sunscreen components accumulate in aquatic environments and cause harm as hormone disruptors. 

One reason behind relatively high prices for branded sunscreens is the use of a natural ingredient called shinorine, which is a biodegradable UV-absorbing compound. Shinorine is currently harvested commercially from the filamentous cyanobacteria called Fischerella. But production yields are limited by seasonal and geographic variations.

Scientists have for the first time now reported the successful synthesizing of shinorine in the laboratory. They first mined the cluster of genes responsible for the synthesis of shinorine from Fischerella and then inserted those genes into a strain of cyanobacteria that grows rapidly in freshwater called Synethcocystis. By adding extra promoters to the gene cluster, the scientists were able to increase production of shinorine by ten-fold.

Finally, the team exposed the cells expressing shinorine and control cells to UV radiation. No growth differences were observed with UV-A light. But when exposed to UV-B, the control cells experienced an obvious decline in population, while shinorine in the expressing cells acted as a sunscreen against UV-B light and helped the cells live and grow better.

The new production method could see rapid uptake of the compound in more sunscreens and hopefully a fall in their prices.


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