Five years from now we may be popping prescription sunscreen pills to protect us from the harmful rays of the sun.
Scientists at King's College London have discovered a natural compound produced in coral reefs that protects them from the sun's damaging UV rays and they're close to reproducing it in the lab.
The Science ...
Corals need sunlight to survive, and so are exposed to high levels of UV rays, especially in the tropics. They also absorb photosynthetic algae into their bodies so they can be fed from within.
The algae forms a compound that scientists think is transferred to the coral, which modifies it into a sunscreen. The sunscreen is then passed down the food chain to the fish that feed on the coral. If the scientists can work out how it's formed, they can recreate it in the lab.
Other Benefits ...
Not only could it help protect us from damaging sun rays, but it could also be used to help provide a sustainable food source for developing countries by modifying crops so they can survive exposure to strong sunlight.
There are dietary pills on the market at the moment that are thought to offer UV protection, but they're not regulated. The pill the King's College scientists are looking at developing would be available by prescription only.
Don't ditch the sun cream just yet; all going well the scientists hope to test the compound within the next couple of years. Watch this space.
See what the King's College team have to say ...