Establishing structure-dynamics-function relationships in sunscreen constituents

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Chemistry


The main objective of this research is combine spectroscopy with complementary computational modelling to yield unprecedented insight into structure-dynamics-function relationships in sunscreen filters. Gas-phase spectroscopy measurements will provide exquisite dynamical insight in the isolated environment; this information will then be used to guide the more complex solution-phase spectroscopy measurements that model more-closely the biological environment. Theory and computation will enrich the analysis and interpretation of the experimental data, while simultaneously guiding new experiments and suggesting unanticipated or unrecognised photoproducts. The DTP student will undertake the experiments on the plant sunscreen filter-based molecules (isopropyl sinapate, sinapoyl methyl lactate and sinapoyl malate) guided by Stavros (supervisor) with theory and computation being carried out with direction from Habershon (co-supervisor).


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509796/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1974867 Studentship EP/N509796/1 08/01/2018 30/06/2021 KONSTANTINA MARSELLA MARSELLA KROKIDI
Description Although solar radiation is vital for maintaining life on Earth, it can be at the same time detrimental to living organisms if appropriate protective measures are not taken. This is especially true for humans, as skin is the primary tissue in direct contact with sunlight. Despite a certain degree of innate protection (with eumelanin production), the skin can still be damaged upon overexposure to ultraviolet radiation. Aiding in the front line defence against the sun's harmful radiation are clothing, hats and photoprotection products such as sunscreens. All current sunscreen formulations consist of a combination of several ultraviolet (UV) filters. Such UV filters can be organic or inorganic molecules that protect the skin by absorbing and reflecting (and/or scatter) the UV radiation. An ideal UV-filter should absorb the ultraviolet radiation and dissipate the excess energy skin in the form of heat. However, studies have pointed out the potentially high toxicity of several UV-filters against the environment as well as the human body.
Current research in sunscreen development focuses on improving on the human and eco-toxicity of UV-filters used while concurrently reducing production cost. In the present work, we investigate the photodynamics of two UV-filters, homosalate (HMS) and methyl cinnamate (MC) and two isomers of the sunscreen precursor methyl anthranilate (methyl 2-aminobenzoate, o-MA), methyl 4-aminobenzoate (p-MA) and methyl 3-aminobenzoate (m-MA) by implementing ultrafast laser spectroscopy techniques.
Overall, according to our studies, HMS appears to have mostly favourable excited state characteristics which justifies its inclusion in sunscreen development while the study of the different isomers of the sunscreen precursor methyl anthranilate reveals several interesting differences in the relaxation pathways upon UV irradiation.
Exploitation Route The overarching goal is to discover new and more efficient UV-filters for use in commercially available sunscreens, or alternatively provide ways to improve existing filters, all within a vision towards optimised skin photoprotection.
Sectors Chemicals,Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology