2 September 2011
Researchers in Britain say they have found evidence that chemicals present in underwater coral could help protect humans against sunburn. They hope to be able to make a sunscreen pill.
Click to hear the report:
Coral is an animal that thrives in shallow water, where it can absorb vital sunlight, but that also makes it vulnerable to strong ultraviolet rays.
It's long been known that algae living inside coral produces a sunscreen that protects it. But the team from King's College in London says this is the first time they have got close to using that chemical to create something similar for humans.
After studying samples from the Great Barrier Reef they found that fish feeding off the coral are also able to withstand powerful ultraviolet rays, leading them to believe that the protective amino acids - the key ingredient - pass up the food chain.
Tests on human skin could take place within two years, though the scientists say it could take them a lot longer to work out whether the protective chemical can be turned into tablet form.
Tom Esslemont, BBC News
Click to hear the vocabulary:
- thrives in
grows well in
- vulnerable to
in an area that can be reached by
- ultraviolet rays
a type of light radiation from the sun that can cause cell damage
- feeding off
- to withstand
to resist the possible damage from
- protective amino acids
substances in the body that make protein and in this case are important in preventing damage cause by the sun's rays
- pass up the food chain
transfer from small organisms to bigger ones when they are eaten
- to work out
to find out