Scientists find sunscreen potential in Antarctic plants
Scientists in Chile have discovered molecules in two species of Antarctic flowers that protect the plants from solar radiation and could potentially be used in products such as sunscreen for humans and protection for vulnerable crops.
Researchers at the University of Santiago investigating the properties of Antarctic plants grown under controlled conditions found that Colobanthus quitensis (pearlwort) and Deschampsia antarctica (hair grass) could tolerate high levels of ultraviolet radiation.
“This allows us also to understand how the plants respond to the ultraviolet radiation, thinking that this information could be used in the not-too-distant future be incorporated into plants of agronomic interest that are susceptible to ultraviolet radiation,” Dr. Gustavo Zuniga said, the research leader.
“For example, some crop that does not tolerate the radiation that is increasing, one could put that information and make the crop respond in a good way.”
According to the British Antarctic Survey, these are the only two flowering plants found in the icy polar region, growing around its more temperate edges. But climate change and melting ice are increasing their range, the Chilean researchers said.
The scientists have identified a group of molecules in the flowers, particularly Colobanthus, that acts as a solar filter and prevents radiation damage, said project leader Gustavo Zuniga.
The university is seeking commercial partners to develop spin-off products from the research, he said.
Natural sunscreens or creams could also be developed incorporating the molecules to protect human skin from damage from ultraviolet radiation, he added.
© 2017 Reuters