Science of sunburn reveals it damages both DNA and RNA

Posted: July 13, 2012 at 6:13 am

That painful sunburn is actually a complex volley of genetically encoded counterattacks buried deep under your skin.

The sun is scorching your RNA, says a study published in Nature Medicine.

In some ways, it was a surprise. said Dr. Richard Gallo, chief of the dermatology division at the University of California San Diego. We know a sunburn will damage DNA. What we didnt suspect is that it is also damaging the RNA.

DNA stores genetic code; RNA transmits it.

The study found that ultraviolet UVB rays from the sun bore through the skin to fracture and tangle a specific type of RNA that does not make proteins.

Sunburned cells release that noncoding micro-RNA, setting off an alarm in healthy surrounding cells that something weird and dangerous is going on.

That alarm turns into inflammation, which turns into sunburn.

We were interested in how the injury is recognized by our body, Gallo said. Those cells that are injured are dead. How can their neighbours detect that?

In fact, the inflammation is the skin trying to heal itself, releasing a cocktail of antibodies and anti-inflammatories that could be beneficial.

It may help us remove cells that might otherwise turn into skin cancer.

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Science of sunburn reveals it damages both DNA and RNA

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