British scientists are working to produce a "sunscreen pill" after discovering how coral is able to shield itself from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, according to UK media reports Wednesday.
The pill could reportedly offer people weeks of sun protection for their skin and eyes -- making suncrean and sunglasses unnecessary.
Researchers from King's College London, who collaborated with Australian and US scientists, made the breakthrough after studying coral from Australia's famous Great Barrier Reef to see how it uses algae to produce its own "natural sunscreen."
Dr. Paul Long told the Daily Mail, "We found that the algae makes a compound that we think is transported to the coral, which then modifies it into a sunscreen for the benefit of both the coral and the algae.
"Not only does this protect them both from UV damage, but we have seen that fish that feed on the coral also benefit from this sunscreen protection, so it is clearly passed up the food chain."
To the likely angst of sun-lovers, however, the pill would do nothing to bronze the skin. In fact, the tablet may have to be prescribed by doctors to prevent people overdosing, which could lead to vitamin D deficiency, The (London) Daily Telegraph reported.
Researchers said the pill could be tested on humans within five years and widely and cheaply available in a decade.
The news comes only days after it emerged that British scientists were developing an implant -- the size of a grain of rice -- that could give people a tan that lasted for up to three months.