A new sunscreen compound called the “mito-iron claw” could give sunscreen formulators an edge when it comes to preventing skin cancer. Most sunscreens are very effective at preventing skin damage from UVB rays, less so against UVA. But recent research indicates that the mito-iron claw could change that.
UVA Radiation and the Skin
UVA rays make up 95% of the UV light that reaches the Earth’s surface. Although UVA rays are less intense than UVB rays which cause sunburn, they penetrate further into the skin. When iron is the body is exposed to UVA rays, it acts as a catalyst for the production of free radical species. These molecules cause damage to DNA, ultimately increasing the risk of developing cancer. UVA rays also cause premature skin aging, such as wrinkles and dark spots.
How It Works
Traditionally, sunscreens have relied on the reflective and absorptive properties of the product to protect the skin for UVA radiation. The mito-iron claw is a customised iron chelator that attaches itself to excess free iron in cells and prevents the reaction with UVA rays. This protects cells from the inside out, targeting the mitochondria of cells where most iron is stored. Previously, it wasn’t possible to target strong chelators to a particular cell area, causing toxic effects to the cells by starving them of iron. The compound doesn’t interfere with the rest of the cell, allowing it to continue functioning normally while the excess iron is inactive.
The mito-iron claw was tested on human skin fibroblast cells by exposing them to the equivalent of 140 uninterrupted minutes of UVA radiation. The results showed that cells treated with the compound were completely protected from cell death, but untreated cells had significant damage.
Researchers hope that the mito-iron claw can be added to sunscreen formulas within 3-4 years. They are also exploring other potential applications of the compound, such as therapies for diseases involving mitochondrial iron overload.
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