Your skin is the largest organ in (or on) your body, so it’s very important that it’s protected, as skin cancer and melanoma can wreak havoc on a person’s health.
Sunscreen has been developed to offer a level of protection, but the generic formula often washes off after time, leaving the person unprotected. Reapplying sunscreen can often be forgotten, resulting in a harmful sunburn that can have lasting effects.
However, a new sunscreen has been developed by scientists that goes beyond the typical ingredients. This new sunscreen is made from DNA.
Guy German, assistant professor of Biomedical Engineering at Binghamton University, looked to create a DNA layer that could protect the skin in a new way, learning and responding to use. Ultraviolet light, or UV rays, can permanently damage a person’s DNA. With this knowledge, German said, “We thought, let’s flip it. What happens instead if we actually used DNA as a sacrificial layer? So instead of damaging DNA within the skin, we damage a layer on top of the skin.”
This second skin layer was created from crystalline DNA layers, irradiated with UV light. As German and his team charged these thin layers with UV light, the DNA got better at absorbing it, creating a better layer of protection as time went on and becoming more exposed.
“If you translate that, it means to me that if you use this as a topical cream or sunscreen, the longer that you stay out on the beach, the better it gets at being a sunscreen,” German said.
The report on these findings was published in the journal Scientific Reports, and goes into further detail on the nature of this new development. In their process, they also found that the DNA film has hygroscopic qualities, meaning that it can absorb moisture from the air. When applied to the skin, it hydrates the tissue, moisturizing the skin and slowing the process of water evaporation. Similar to its response to UV rays, the hydration process gets better with more extended wear.
“Not only do we think this might have applications for sunscreen and moisturizers directly, but if it’s optically transparent and prevents tissue damage from the sun and it’s good at keeping the skin hydrated, we think this might be potentially exploitable as a wound covering for extreme environments,” said German.
Further exploration into the DNA film includes using it for wound treatment in combat situations or hostile environments. It can be useful in situations where the wound needs to be protected from the sun, if it needs to be visible during the healing process, or to moisturize the wound and promote faster healing.