BETHESDA, Md. — A breakthrough in sunscreen technology keeps skin safe, could be used for anti-aging treatments and also protects coral reefs from devastation. Scientists have found the century-old medicine Methylene Blue, which once kept soldiers in the First and Second World Wars safe from malaria, could be the key in the future of new sunscreens.
Eighty percent of today’s sunscreens use oxybenzone as a chemical UV blocker, despite multiple studies showing it speeds the destruction of coral reefs when it washes off in the water. It is currently only banned for use in over-the-counter sunscreen in places like Palau and Hawaii, with it in widespread use in Europe, Australia and elsewhere in the United States.
The discovery has also found Methylene Blue, which was also once used to treat cyanide poisoning in the 1930s, also has remarkable anti-aging abilities when combined with Vitamin C. When the two antioxidants combine, they are able to repair and restore DNA damage caused by harmful sun rays.
The medicine also was able to protect human skin from ultraviolet A (UVA), associated with skin aging and ultraviolet B (UVB), linked with skin burning. The researchers also exposed the same amounts of Methylene Blue and oxybenzone on coral in isolated tanks and found in the water. They reported drastic coral bleaching and death in less than a week.
Coral treated with Methylene Blue did not have any negative effects on coral health even at a relatively high concentration, the study reported. The researchers have now filed a patent application and have started developing sunscreen prototypes that contain the medicine.
“Our work suggests that Methylene Blue is an effective UVB blocker with a number of highly desired characteristics as a promising ingredient to be included in sunscreens,” says Dr. Ken Cau, professor of molecular genetics at the University of Maryland, in a statement. “It shows a broad spectrum absorption of both UVA and UVB rays, promotes DNA damage repair, combats reactive oxygen species (ROS) induced by UVA, and most importantly, poses no harm to coral reefs.
“We are extremely excited to see that skin fibroblasts, derived from both young and old individuals, have improved so much in terms of proliferation and cellular stress in a methylene blue-containing cell culture medium,” he continues. “Most surprisingly, we found that the combination of Methylene Blue and Vitamin C could deliver amazing anti-aging effects, particularly in skin cells from older donors, suggesting a strong synergistic reaction between these two beneficial antioxidants. Altogether, our study suggests that Methylene Blue has the potential to be a coral reef-friendly sunscreen active ingredient that can provide broad-spectrum protection against UVA and UVB.”
The study is published in Nature Scientific Reports.
Report by SWNS writer Joe Morgan.