Photo: Public domain
DNA Repair in a Pouch
Getting some time in the sun is probably good for you since most of us are deficient in vitamin D, but it can also be dangerous because exposure to UV radiation can damage the DNA of your skin cells and cause cancer. This is a dilemma that most of us are faced with, but things might be about to change. Scientists at the Melbourne University are studying a DNA repair enzyme produced by kangaroos. This enzyme helps protect them from skin cancer, and it could eventually lead to some sort of 'DNA repair cream" that you could simply apply to your skin after a day in the sun.
Photo: Creative Commons/GFDL
A Good Example of Learning from Nature
Of course, such an anti-cancer cream would be the best possible application of this discovery. We're not there yet, and it might turn out to be impossible to do (at least with our level of technology), but even if that's not practical, a better understanding of the mechanisms used by kangaroos could help develop other types of medical therapies.
Photo: Flickr, CC
It is no surprise that kangaroos have evolved such a repair mechanism over time. Australia gets more than its share of UV radiation. Dr Linda Feketeova of the University of Melbourne said: "As summer approaches, excessive exposure to the sun's harmful UV light will see more than 400,000 Australians diagnosed with skin cancer."
We often talk about biomimicry, but that just doesn't mean trains shaped like birds or cars shaped like fish. It can also happen at the molecular level. We have much to learn from other species, which is one more reason to protect them.