How zebrafish produce their own sunscreen

Zebrafish produce a chemical, called gadusol, that works as a sunscreen, protecting them from the harsh sunlight in their reef habitat, researchers have found.

What is more, the fish synthesise the gadusol in yeast – and not through their diet or symbiotic relationships with bacteria, as previously thought – which suggests possible commercialisation of the compound in the production of sunscreen pills and lotions.

Small-molecule sunscreens — which include compounds called the mycosporine-like amino acids (MAAs) and a related compound called gadusol — are also found in corals, marine invertebrates and fish, the researchers write.

They also found gadusol in the eyes of the mantis shrimp, sea urchin eggs and sponges.

“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,” Professor Taifo Mahmud, the leader of the study, told Bang! Science.

Further studies need to be conducted to establish how gadusol is absorbed and metabolised by the body in order to ensure its efficacy and safety before it is used in the production of sunscreen pills and lotions.

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