Kangaroos could hold the key to the prevention of skin cancer with scientists working to discover how the marsupial has the ability to repair its sun-damaged DNA.
Melbourne University researchers Dr Linda Feketeova and Dr Uta Wille have teamed up with Austrian scientists from the University of Innsbruck to find ways to reduce the incidence of skin cancer.
They are investigating a DNA repair enzyme found in kangaroos, and a number of plants and other animals - but not humans - that repair DNA damage that is linked to skin cancer.
"As summer approaches, excessive exposure to the sun's harmful UV light will see more than 400,000 Australians diagnosed with skin cancer," Dr Feketeova said.
"Other research teams have proposed a 'dream cream' containing the DNA repair enzyme that you could slap on your skin after a day in the sun.
"We are now examining whether this would be feasible by looking at the chemistry behind the (kangaroo) DNA system."
She said that clinical trials with humans were still five years away.
"But there have been a number of studies which show the application of this enzyme could enhance repair by almost 45 per cent - and that's striking," Dr Feketeova said.
Dr Wille, who has been researching the kangaroo link for a number of years, said the DNA's repair process had resulted in a number of chemical by-products that had never been seen before.
"Our plan is to study these products to understand if the DNA repair enzyme could be incorporated into a safe and effective method for skin cancer prevention," she said.
"But there is still much to investigate before this dream cream will be available at the pharmacy, so don't throw out you sunscreen just yet."
The work by the two scientists, from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Free Radical Chemistry and Biotechnology, will be published in the upcoming edition of Chemical Communications.