Researchers at Newcastle University have discovered a new compound which offers 100% protection from certain types of sun skin challenges, publishing their results in January’s edition of the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.Sunlight is comprised of several portions of the electromagnetic radiation spectrum, reaching the Earth as infrared, visible and ultraviolet light. The ultraviolet part of the spectrum helps humans produce Vitamin D, an essential compound for helping calcium bind to bone and producing hormones such as testosterone.
However, UVB bands might cause sunburn, which may be remedied with proper application and use of sunscreen and staying out of particularly strong sun, while UVA has the potential to alter the skin’s DNA, as well as breaking down the collagen fibers in the skin via the production of free radicals, making it appear more wrinkled.
The team looked to compare the effects of several antioxidants for the effects of UVA radiation or free radical effects. These compounds are beneficial, with the ability to slow down the rate at which the skin ages as a result of exposure to sunlight, for example, by reducing the amount of oxidation, which in turn reduces the number of free radicals. With fewer free radicals circulating around the cell, cell structures like collagen and DNA remain unaltered and healthy.
It may be easy to incorporate antioxidants into diets, with many plant-based foods containing a large quantity of the compounds seeing as they require protection from the free radicals produced by the sun during photosynthesis.
Red beans, blueberries, cranberries and artichoke hearts may be some of the best sources for antioxidants. They discovered the most potent antioxidants were those which reduced oxidation caused by mitochondria within the cells, a structure analogous to a battery, providing the cell with energy. The more non-specific antioxidants, which targeted the entire cell, still showed some benefits as the mitochondria-targeted compounds, however to a minimal extent.
Skin cells were given doses of UVA radiation synonymous to the amount a human would receive being out on a summer’s day, varying in the antioxidants given prior to exposure. Following a polymerase chain reaction in which the DNA is copied multiple times, the scientists were able to assess the effect of the ultraviolet light on the cell.
Antioxidants such as resveratrol, found in red wine and targeting the whole cell, offered 22% protection, whilst curcumin, a compound derived from the spice turmeric which targets the entire cell, only managed 8% protection from UVA.
However, one molecule stood out from the other antioxidants. The mitochondria-targeted compound Tiron offered complete protection from both UVA and oxidative reactions caused by processes occurring within the mitochondria. According to Professor Mark Birch-Machin, speaking to the Newcastle University press office, this discovery is promising, however he mentions it was still early days, especially due to the fact that Tiron is a man made compound and must be tested further before it can be used in humans. There have been experiments, however, on laboratory rats regarding the effects of Tiron, and in light of the UVA protective properties of the compound further testing needs to soon be scheduled.
As a result, it may be a while before the compound used on the market.
Dr. Anne Oyewole, co-author of the journal, spoke to the press office of the work as being an innovative platform for which to continue studies on the use of antioxidants, with the aim of finding a natural product with a similar shape as Tiron which might be used in foods and cosmetics.
How might this be translated into a marketable product?