IT’S a familiar site on beaches and in parks the world over, and has caused misery for millions of sun-worshippers.
But lobster-pink skin caused by sunburn has helped lead to an important discovery that could bring an end to the suffering.
Scientists have identified the chemical that makes the skin sting and itch following a day in the sun – paving the way for the treatment of more long-term conditions such as arthritis.
Researchers from King’s College London used UV lamps to burn small squares on the arms of ten volunteers before taking samples of the damaged skin.
Several chemicals were found to be present in higher levels than usual – including CXCL5 – which attracts white blood cells to the damaged area, causing tenderness.
Further experiments showed it was also present in high levels in sunburnt rats.
The scientists then used an antibody that blocks the action of CXCL5 to ease the pain of the sunburnt rodents.
The antibody is not suitable for use on healthy people but could provide the basis for future medications to treat chronic pain.