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Broccoli juice may keep skin cancer at bay

Forget sunscreens, the thing that can actually protect your skin from UV rays is broccoli juice, say scientists.

Scientists in the United States have been testing broccoli extract on human volunteers and mice, which showed their skin was protected against sunburn. Broccoli contains sulforaphane, an antioxidant, which helps stop sunburn and tumour development.

Additionally, scientists in New Zealand have also suggested that extract from totara and manuka trees could act in a similar way to broccoli.

Previously, a study published in the ‘International Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism’ revealed test rats exposed to sunscreen ingredients suffered hormonal imbalances. Skin care specialist Kelly Curtis said mineral products had developed significantly since the ‘peanut butter-like’ zinc available 30 years ago.

“People see that it’s got titanium oxide or zinc and it brings back memories of that thick, coloured stuff from the 1980s,” said Dalton Kelly of the Cancer Society.

“But the products really have improved and by using physical blockers rather than chemical sunscreens, you are minimising the amount of chemicals going into your body.”
Kelly is concerned people who buy new products with a high SPF rating may fall into a false sense of security.

Green tea can protect food against contamination

Scientists have suggested that extracts from natural sources such as green tea, grape seed and bacteriocins such as nisin could be alternatives for food processors instead of chemicals as a means of protecting against pathogen contamination.

Researchers for the Food Safety Consortium at the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture have applied the natural extracts to chicken and turkey hot dogs with encouraging results.

“Food preservation systems often use chemicals and heat treatments to reduce the risk of bacterial food poisoning outbreaks and food spoilage,” explained Navam Hettiarachchy, a UA food science professor who led the research project. But consumers prefer minimal processing and natural tasting foods without additives. Natural extracts can accomplish the same goal without compromising taste or food safety.

“There has been increasing evidence on the antimicrobial activities of the extracts from culinary ingredients such as green tea, grape seed and spices against foodborne pathogens,” Hettiarachchy said.

Pulses of light might one day keep diseased hearts beating

Heart muscles genetically engineered to respond to optical stimulation could improve models of heart attacks, and may also increase the understanding of how the embryonic heart develops, say scientists.

The works are among the earliest applications outside the nervous system of a technique called optogenetics. This approach switches cells on and off using proteins called channelrhodopsin and halorhodopsin, which are taken from microorganisms and act as light-sensitive ion channels.

When expressed in neurons, the proteins allow scientists to control individual neurons and brain circuits in laboratory animals using pulses of different colours of light.
Like neurons, heart-muscle cells — cardiomyocytes — are activated by electrical action potentials created by pumping ions into and out of the cells.

“If you had to pick the next logical tissue for work on optogenetics, the heart is a great one,” said Karl Deisseroth, Stanford University.

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