According to researchers at the University of Maryland, inositol and inositol hexaphosphate (IP6) could provide all-purpose radiation protection, helping to protect the DNA from UVB radiation, radiation therapy for cancer patients - and even radiation from a nuclear disaster or bomb. The two molecules, which are found in legumes and bran, protect both human skin cells and skin-cancer prone mice from exposure to UVB radiation, according to researchers. The team, led by Abulkalam Shamsuddin, professor of pathology at the University of Maryland, gave drinking water containing a 2 percent solution of IP6 to mice that had been engineered to be prone to skin cancer. The scientists found that 23 percent of treated mice developed tumors, compared to 51 percent of untreated mice. In addition the mice that were given the IP6 treatment that did develop cancers, developed fewer tumours than the untreated mice. Likewise, positive effects were also seen when mice were treated with a topical cream containing four percent IP6 and one percent isonitol; 62 percent of mice treated with the cream one hour before UVB radiation developed tumors, compared to 76 percent of mice that weren't treated. With funding provided by IP-6 Research Inc, a company formed by Shamsuddin, the researchers went on to study the effect of IP6 on human skin cells exposed to UVB radiation. According to Shamsuddin, the human keratinocytes treated with IP6 were more likely to survive UVB irradiation, than the untreated cells. The untreated cells were more likely to undergo cell apoptosis, genetically programmed cell death. Cell exposure to ionizing radiation - examples of which include sun exposure radiation therapy and exposure to radioactive materials - may cause permanent DNA damage. If this is the case, the cell, under normal circumstances, undergoes cell apoptosis via the workings of the tumour-suppressing gene p53. This cell death is a protective mechanism for the organism, as uncontrolled division of damaged cells leads to tumor growth. Although inositol and IP6 are known to have potent antioxidant properties, the exact mechanism underlying their DNA protective qualities is unknown. "IP6 certainly has some interactivity with DNA, but how exactly it works to repair DNA is still something of a mystery. There are reports that IP6 binds with DNA repairs molecule Ku to bring about the repair process," Shamsuddin said. Shamsuddin claims that the findings indicate that either topical or ingested IP6 might confer protection against ionizing radiation in general. "Radiation damage is radiation damage, regardless of the source, so there could also be a protective role for IP6 in any form of radiation exposure, whether it is from a therapeutic dose or from solar, cosmic or nucleur sources" said Shamsuddin. The findings are to be presented at the American Association for Cancer Research's conference 'From Technology to Treatment' held in Singapore this week. The findings support an increasing body of scientific literature suggesting that conventional sunscreens may not be the only defence against sun damage. CosmeticsDesign.com recently reported on a broccoli extract sulforaphane, which may help to protect against UV damage by stimulating the cell's own protective mechanisms.