Navigation Links
UT researchers: English ivy may give sunblock a makeover

When Mingjun Zhang was watching his son play in the yard, he was hit with a burning question: "What makes the ivy in his backyard cling to the fence so tightly?"

That simple question has led to a pioneering discovery that the tiny particles secreted from ivy rootlets can be used in many breakthrough applications in items such as military technologies, medical adhesives and drug delivery, and, most recently, sun-block.

Zhang, an associate professor of biomedical engineering at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, along with his research team and collaborators, has found that ivy nanoparticles may protect skin from UV radiation at least four times better than the metal-based sunblocks found on store shelves today.

"The discovery of ivy nanoparticles' application to sunscreen was triggered by a real need. While hearing a talk at a conference about toxicity concerns in the use of metal-based nanoparticles in sunscreen, I was wondering, 'Why not try naturally occurring organic nanoparticles?'" Zhang said.

Zhang speculated the greenery's hidden power lay within a yellowish material secreted by the ivy for surface climbing. He placed this material onto a silicon wafer and examined it under an atomic force microscope and was surprised by what they found -- lots of nanoparticles, tiny particles 1,000 times thinner than the diameter of a human hair. The properties of these tiny bits create the ability for the vine leaves to hold almost 2 million more times than its weight. It also has the ability to soak up and disperse light which is integral to sunscreens.

"Nanoparticles exhibit unique physical and chemical properties due to large surface-to-volume ratio which allows them to absorb and scatter light," Zhang said. "Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide are currently used for sunscreen for the same reason, but the ivy nanoparticles are more uniform than the metal-based nanoparticles, and have unique material properties, which may help to enhance the absorption and scattering of light, and serve better as a sun-blocker."

The team's study indicates that ivy nanoparticles can improve the extinction of ultraviolet light at least four times better than its metal counterparts. Furthermore, the metal-based sunscreens used today can pose health hazards. Zhang notes some studies have shown that the small-scale metal oxides in sunscreen can wind up in organs such as the liver or brain.

Ivy nanoparticles, on the other hand, exhibit better biocompatibility with humans and the environment. The team's studies indicate that the ivy nanoparticles were less toxic to mammalian cells, have a limited potential to penetrate through human skin, and are easily biodegradable.

"In general, it is not a good idea to have more metal-based nanoparticles for cosmetic applications. They are a significant concern for the environment. Naturally occurring nanoparticles originated from plants seem to be a better choice, especially since they have been demonstrated to be less toxic and easily biodegradable," Zhang said.

Sunscreens made with ivy nanoparticles may not need to be reapplied after swimming. That's because the plant's nanoparticles are a bit more adhesive so sunscreens made with them may not wash off as easily as traditional sunscreens. And while sunscreens made with metal-based nanoparticles give the skin a white tinge, sunscreens made with ivy nanoparticles are virtually invisible when applied to the skin.


Contact: Whitney Holmes
University of Tennessee at Knoxville

Related biology news :

1. UF researchers: Ancient crocodile relative likely food source for Titanoboa
2. NOAA researchers: Blue whales re-establishing former migration patterns
3. Stanford researchers: Global warming is killing frogs and salamanders in Yellowstone Park
4. Midget plant gets makeover
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/12/2015)... October 12, 2015 NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" ... growing mobile commerce market, reports on the recent SNS Future ... . --> NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" or the "Company"), ... market, reports on the recent SNS Future in Review Conference ... NXT-ID, Inc. (NASDAQ: NXTD ) ("NXT-ID" or the ...
(Date:10/8/2015)... Oktober 2015 Die Track Group, ... des Bereiches Tracking, hat heute bekannt gegeben, ... Virginias (Department of Corrections – DOC) unterzeichnet ... alle Strafen geliefert werden, die der Behörde ... für den Amerikanischen Kontinent der Track Group. ...
(Date:10/6/2015)... SALT LAKE CITY , Oct. 6, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... solutions company, announced today that it has signed a ... electronic monitoring services across the full range of sentences ... Track Group,s President of the Americas. "This contract with ... Eastern region of the US and advances our position ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/13/2015)... , Oct. 13 2015 Research and ... "US & Europe Markets for Bone Morphogenetic Protein ... to their offering. --> ... that induce the formation of bone after a fracture. ... embryonic development in the formation of the skeleton. There ...
(Date:10/13/2015)... New York , October 13, 2015 ... Growth, Trends, and Forecast 2015 - 2023 " , ... in 2014 and is anticipated to reach US$7.59 bn by 2023, ... 2015 to 2023. --> " Microbiology Culture Market ... - 2023 " , the global microbiology culture ...
(Date:10/13/2015)... ... October 13, 2015 , ... AxioMx Inc. , a ... received a Phase I Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) grant (1R43GM112204-01A1). This Phase ... Sciences (NIGMS), will fund the development of a technique to rapidly convert single-chain ...
(Date:10/13/2015)... YORK , October 13, 2015 ... acceleration and development company, has entered into a strategic ... York and Paris, France ... --> --> This collaborative arrangement ... highly respected scientific advisory team as well as long ...
Breaking Biology Technology: