31/08/2011 06:49 BST | Updated 31/10/2011 05:12 GMT

Sunscreen Pill From Coral Could Be Developed Within Five Years, Scientists Say

PRESS ASSOCIATION -- A secret from the sea could lead to a pill that prevents sunburn within five years, scientists have said.

British researchers have uncovered the unique way coral shields itself against harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

They believe the discovery could pave the way to a sunscreen revolution with a tablet that protects both skin and eyes.

The scientists are close to producing a synthetic anti-sun compound based on those found in coral.

If the research progresses as hoped, the first sunscreen pill could become a reality in five years.

Such a product may have to be on prescription only to prevent people overdosing and harming their health.

Some skin reaction to UV is vital for the production of vitamin D. Too much sun protection can lead to vitamin D deficiency, resulting in weak bones.

Coral is an animal that only survives because of the algae living within it.

The mutually dependent relationship between the two organisms is the key to coral sun protection.

The work is being funded by the taxpayer through the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.