New Study: The Zebrafish Produces Its Own Sunscreen

A new study has documented the ability of the zebrafish to generate a compound known as gadusol as a protection against harmful rays emanating from the sun. The findings have been described in the journal eLife. Scientists hope that this trait of the fish can be exploited for the benefit of humans in the future.

gadusol

The zebrafish, able to suncreen its body all by itself.

Now that this amazing characteristic of the fish has been discovered, can humans help but not use it to their own advantage? The substance known as gadusol provides ultraviolet (UV) protection to the aquatic organisms – it might be used to improve sun protection for us humans, according to researchers.

It might seem unlikely for fish to be negatively affected by the sun. However, those living on reefs, and in the upper ocean, are indeed exposed to potentially damaging UV radiation. Therefore, they have been endowed with the ability to protect themselves from the harm posed by the sun. Scientists deem this discovery to be surprising; they had initially theorised that the fish would obtain the sunscreen compounds from their diet, or from mutualistic relationships with bacteria, not not making it themselves.

Following the discovery of the superb ability of the zebrafish, the researchers determined to analyse the trait genetically. They wanted to identify the genes behind the synthesis of gadusol to later bring about the same process in yeast. Also, these genes were found to be present in many other animals such as some amphibians, birds and reptiles.

“The fact that the compound is produced by fish, as well as by other animals including birds, makes it a safe prospect to ingest in pill form,” says Professor Taifo Mahmud, lead author of the study in a statement.

Is gadusol really safe though? More tests will have to be done to answer to this pertinent query. If it is found to be safe to use on top of being effective, the team of researchers intend to use yeast to mass-produce gadusol for pharmaceutical and cosmetics purposes.

“In the future it may be possible to use yeast to produce large quantities of this natural compound for sunscreen pills and lotions, as well as for other cosmetics sold at your local supermarket or pharmacy,” says Mahmud.

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