Most flora and fauna are equipped to reverse sun damage with an enzyme called photolyase. Unfortunately for us humans, mammals are the exception. Although we have other enzymes that help to correct the harm done by UV light, none work as efficiently as photolyase.
The way photolyase functions has long evaded scientists, but an Ohio State University research team recently pinpointed how it works, and in doing so, may have opened the door to harnessing its power for our own use in the future.
The researchers exposed synthesized DNA to UV light in order to reproduce sun damage. By using a breakthrough technology, they witnessed photolyase breaking up the damage-induced wayward chemical bonds and putting them back in the correct place by launching a single electron and proton into the strand of DNA. This happens in mere billionths of a second.
Now that photolyase’s actions are understood, the knowledge could potentially be put to use to create drugs, lotions and sunscreen that heal or repair various forms of sun damage, from sunburn to skin cancer to signs of aging.
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