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Wednesday, 31 October, 2001, 19:04 GMT
Ocean bugs used in sun lotion
Ocean
The special ingredient comes from the bottom of the ocean
Heat-loving bacteria from the bottom of the ocean are being used to develop a hi-tech sun screen.

A French cosmetics firm has developed a "smart" sun lotion using bacteria harvested from deep-sea hydrothermal vents.

As a result, the lotion gives increased skin protection as the temperature rises.


It is possibly better than vitamin E, which is used in many cosmetic preparations for a similar effect

Dr Olga Gracioso
Deep-sea hydrothemal vents are fissures in the ocean floor that spew hot, acidic water.

Few organisms can survive at the high temperatures and pressures found within these vents. However, they are home to myriads of microbes.

Among these is Thermus thermophilus, a bacterium that thrives at around 75 C.

New Scientist magazine reports that cosmetics company Sederma of Le Perray-en-Yvelines near Paris hopes to use T. thermophilus to make a range of skincare products.

The company have gathered bacteria from vents two kilometres down on the bottom of the Pacific's Gulf of California.

Fermentation

The ingredient that Sederma will put into its products is produced through a fermentation process using T. thermophilus.

The process is subject to a patent application, and the company will not reveal what else gets thrown into the pot.

However, project member Dr Olga Gracioso claims the result is "a cocktail of proteins" including enzymes that are particularly effective at mopping up a variety of highly reactive chemical complexes called free radicals.

These chemicals are produced by exposure to ultraviolet light and are known to be involved in reactions that damage the skin.

Sederma says its new ingredient can mop up hydrogen peroxide three times as effectively at 40 C as at 25 C.

Skincare

Dr Gracioso says that the company hopes that over the next few years, cosmetics manufacturers will use its ingredient to make skincare products whose efficacy increases with temperature.

The product seems to be particularly effective at preventing ultraviolet damage to fibroblasts - the cells that make the collagen and elastin proteins that keep skin durable.

Dr Gracioso believes that it may protect fibroblasts by preventing a process called lipoperoxidation, in which UV rays damage the molecules that form cell membranes.

She said: "It is possibly better than vitamin E, which is used in many cosmetic preparations for a similar effect."

See also:

20 Jul 01 | Health
Plankton's place in the sun
13 Jun 01 | Health
Cheap sun screens 'just as good'
04 Jun 01 | Health
Skin cancer cases surge
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