The ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun can have damaging effects on the exposed skin of humans, land and marine creatures. The human body produces melanin that protects the skin from the harmful UV rays to a certain extent and now a new study suggest that fishes also produce a natural sunscreen called gadusol that protects their skin from UV rays.
The latest study has been conducted by researchers at the Oregon State University (OSU), which reveals that zebrafish produces gadusol naturally, which helps the fish to protect its skin from UV rays. Scientists are in agreement that many algae and bacteria produce gadusol and previously, scientists believed that the zebrafish produced gadusol by consuming such algae and bacteria.
Zebrafish is a tropical freshwater fish and is very commonly used in aquariums. The fish is also used for research work by many scientists. Taifo Mahmud, a professor at OSU College of Pharmacy, who is also the lead author of the research, reveals that humans and many other animals cannot produce the natural sunscreen but many animal species can naturally produce gadusol.
The study also involved examining the genes of many other animal species to see if any species produce gadusol naturally. The research team suggests that they were able to find gadusol producing genes in reptiles, birds and amphibians. However, the study could not find any gadusol producing genes in any mammals.
Mahmud suggests that genes of the zebrafish are responsible for producing gadusol naturally.
"The ability to make gadusol, which was first discovered in fish eggs, clearly has some evolutionary value to be found in so many species," says Mahmud. "We know it provides UV-B protection, it makes a pretty good sunscreen."
Mahmud reveals that gadusol assists zebrafish to protect itself from harmful UV rays; however, the compound also acts as an antioxidant and helps in embryonic development in the zebrafish as well as its eggs.
The researchers suggest that the findings of the study is important as it may help scientists to develop an ingestible pill, which can help humans to produce a sunscreen from within the body than applying a lotion on the skin for protection from UV rays.
The study has been published in the journal eLife.
Photo: Joe Shlabotnik | Flickr