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Breakthrough: scientists develop molecules that act as UVA filters

By Michelle Yeomans , 13-Dec-2012
Last updated the 03-May-2013 at 10:22 GMT

Scientists at the University of Bath have created innovative compounds that will be the first of their kind to provide on-demand protection against sunlight-mediated skin ageing and damage.

Lead researchers, Dr. Charareh Pourzand and Dr. Ian Eggleston have developed a series of light-activated ‘caged iron chelators (CICs)’ that are only activated in skin cells when exposed to relevant doses of UVA, that they say will ultimately lead to the development of sunscreens with enhanced protection against skin cancer and skin photo-ageing.

A representative for the University, Philip Brown told CosmeticsDesign-Europe.com that the research, although still on-going has great potential in that conventional sunscreens provide protection through organic molecules or inorganic materials that filter out harmful UV radiation, thereby limiting the dose at the skin surface.

Although many sunscreen formulations on the market provide broad spectrum protection against harmful UV radiation, Brown says they are typically more effective against the short wavelength UVB component of sunlight.

It is widely recognised that there is a need for novel and multi-functional photoprotective compounds that provide protection against the carcinogenic and aging effects of the more damaging UVA component,” he says.

Whereas with CIC’s, Brown says they avoid the non-selective iron-binding effects of classic siderophores, to provide a dose and context-dependent protection from the harmful effects of UVA-induced labile iron release.

On-going research

Back in 2002, the scientists started work on the concept of light-activated caged-iron chelators for skin photoprotection, the results of which were published in 2006 in the peer-reviewed ‘Journal of Investigative Dermatology’. 

Pourzand and Eggleston moved on to collaborate with Estee Lauder Laboratories New York in 2006 to further validate the photoprotective potential of the compounds in post-menopausal skin, the results of which were published in 2011 (Pelle et al, 2011).

Next the researchers set about designing and synthesizing a new series of prototype multi-functional caged-iron chelators in 2009, that provide additional levels of protection against the harmful effects of sunlight exposure, in conjunction with targeted release of an iron chelator. 

Brown goes on to inform this publication that the new molecules were analysed during 2011 in cultured skin cell models and that the promising nature of the protection provided by the family of novel caged chelator compounds prompted the team to file a patent around their technology in 2012.

Now, the scientists say they are working on; "further exemplifying the concept of these multifunctional caged-iron chelators for skin photoprotection against sunlight damage, and on the synthesis of 'next generation' molecules."

"We expect that this will generate more substantial proof of concept data required for pre-clinical follow up and/or transfer to an industrial partner," they conlcuded.

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