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Friday, 20 July, 2001, 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK
Plankton's place in the sun
Researchers on boat
Researchers found a "natural sunscreen" in plankton
Sunbathers could be slapping on plankton lotion after a discovery by marine scientists.

Researchers at Plymouth were working out how the microscopic algae protected itself from the sun's ultra violet rays.

Marine chemist Carole Llewellyn realised there could be a commercial spin-off for the natural sunscreen produced by the plants.

Plymouth Marine Laboratory staff are now working with the high street chain Boots to create a new product using extracts from phytoplankton.

Phytoplankton
Microscopic phytoplankton lives just below the sea surface
The hole in the ozone layer over the Earth's atmosphere has increased the amount of harmful ultra violet rays reaching the planet's surface.

The rays cause skin cancer in humans - but they have also been killing off some kinds of plankton.

The scientists have found that others produce compounds to protect themselves.

Ms Llewellyn said: "These tiny plants have evolved over millions of years and have found a variety of ways to protect themselves, including the production of a compound that blocks out UV light."

Carole Llewellyn
Carole Llewellyn: Unlocked secret
She and her colleagues were studying how phytoplankton responded to global changes when she realised the commercial potential.

She identified the key components of the plants' natural sunscreen.

A patent has now been filed.

Ed Galley, scientific adviser for Boots, said: "We are interested in these compounds because any products developed will be derived from a natural, renewable source."

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See also:

13 Jun 01 | Health
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