A new company is to be formed at a Tyneside university to design a sunscreen which will protect the skin’s genetic material, or DNA.
The company, DNAcare Systems, will be set up at Newcastle University and follows research by skin cancer expert Dr Mark Birch-Machin. The project has already received financial backing. The university scientists are in early talks with several major cosmetic companies to create the sunscreen. Sunscreens are currently rated for their ability to prevent sunburn but not for their ability to protect against DNA damage. Research has shown that levels of sunlight not strong enough to cause sunburn can still damage the skin’s DNA. The new sunscreen would be specifically designed with the DNA protection level in mind. DNAcare Systems will also offer a service where companies can have their products rated for their ability to protect the skin from DNA damage. Dr Birch-Machin, from Newcastle University’s School of Clinical and Laboratory Sciences, said: “This sunburnt DNA is like a skin cancer time bomb – and too much sun exposure also leads to skin ageing, meaning your skin starts to look like an old leather sofa. “Our company will turn a unique idea, that was born in the laboratory, into a reality. “We hope to convince the industry to introduce a DNA rating for all sunscreens, as we are convinced this will contribute to reducing the cases of skin cancer.” The project has been backed by the independent early technology funding company, NStar, based in the north-east of England. (Source: BBC News: July 2004)