Sunburn sucks. It hurts and its dangerous. And if you get it on your face, it's embarrassing. Always apply sunblock when you're out in the sun for too long.
Scientists, aren't exactly sure what the biological process behind the body's protective immune response to high levels of ultraviolet radiation. But it turns out it's your RNA screaming out in pain.
Researchers from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have shown that the distinctive red glow is a consequence of RNA damage to skin cells. The research is published in Nature Medicine.
The researchers found that UVB radiation causes strands of micro-RNA to fracture and tangle. Cells that have been subjected to too much radiation release the RNA causing the effect where neighboring cells do the same. The net result is an inflammatory response intended to remove sun damaged cells, and that is the feeling of having a sunburn.
Richard L. Gallo, one of the researchers, explains:
"Genetics is closely linked to the ability to defend against UV damage and develop skin cancers. We know in our mouse genetic models that specific genes will change how the mice get sunburn. Humans have similar genes, but it is not known if people have mutations in these genes that affect their sun response."
Researchers hope that the new found understanding can help them block the inflammatory process altogether.
"Some people have excess sensitivity to UV light, patients with lupus, for example," explains Gallo. "We are exploring if we can help them by blocking the pathway we discovered."
The same development could make way for more effective treatment of diseases like psoriasis as well which are treated through UV exposure.
"Our discovery suggests a way to get the beneficial effects of UV therapy without actually exposing our patients to the harmful UV light," continues Gallo.