Did you get a sunburn this summer? Know this: that redness you got is actually RNA damage to skin cells.
Using both human skin cells and a mouse model, Gallo, first author Jamie J. Bernard, a post-doctoral researcher, and colleagues found that UVB radiation fractures and tangles elements of non-coding micro-RNA -- a special type of RNA inside the cell that does not directly make proteins. Irradiated cells release this altered RNA, provoking healthy, neighboring cells to start a process that results in an inflammatory response intended to remove sun-damaged cells.
We see and feel the process as sunburn.
"The inflammatory response is important to start the process of healing after cell death," said Gallo. "We also believe the inflammatory process may clean up cells with genetic damage before they can become cancer. Of course, this process is imperfect and with more UV exposure, there is more chance of cells becoming cancerous."
Link (Image: Thomas Deerinck/National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research, UC San Diego)