Hiking Tech: Sunscreen in a Pill

Hiking is a gloriously simple activity, but that doesn't mean that there isn't room for improvement. These five products, including waterproof cell phones and rescue-ready drones, could make you look at backpacking in a different light.

    Photo: Jameson Simpson

In 2001, researchers from King’s College London discovered a compound made by coral that could be synthesized into tablet-form sunscreen.

An algae living within the coral produces a compound that, when transported to its host, protected both organisms from UV damage. Fish feeding on the coral also benefited from the natural sunscreen, indicating that the compound could be passed through the food chain without losing its protective properties.

“This led us to believe that if we can determine how this compound is created and passed on, we could biosynthetically develop it in the laboratory to create a sunscreen for human use, perhaps in the form of a tablet, which would work in a similar way,” says Paul Long, senior lecturer from the Institute of Pharmaceutical Science at King’s College London.

Last winter, the college entered into an agreement with the UK-based skincare company Aethic to develop the first sunscreen based on these amino acids. The next step for the researchers is to test the efficacy of this compound using human skin models. The product still isn’t on the market.

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