Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Fun fact: Better sunscreen possible using bioprospecting

"Drontheim Fjord"by Karl Kaufmann

Bioprospecting is a branch of science that tries to find organisms that have traits that may be useful in industrial applications. Norwegian researchers, using this approach, have identified a species of bacteria that live in the Trondheim Fjord that produce a pigment that can absorb long-wavelength UV radiation. Long-wavelength UV radiation is associated with multiple forms of skin cancer, so incorporating the pigment from this bacteria into sunscreen would provide unprecedented protection from harmful solar radiation.

The bacterium in question is named Micrococcus luteus and contains a carotenoid called sarcinaxanthin which absorbs sunlight at the appropriate wavelength to have the desired affect for a sunscreen. A Norwegian company named Promar AS has patented the production of sarcinaxanthin and have given it the commercial name UVAblue. Promar AS have isolated the gene that produces the pigment and produced recombinant bacteria in order to produce large quantities of UVAblue. The goal now becomes; finding a more cost-effective means of production to reduce the cost of UVAblue.