National

Students at Japan high school developing cream to prevent jellyfish stings

Kyodo

The aquarium club at a public high school in Ehime Prefecture has developed a prototype for a cream that prevents jellyfish stings, with a goal of releasing the product in February with help from a private company.

With products to prevent jellyfish stings still a rarity in Japan, members of the Nagahama High School club in Ozu will start by promoting their creation, named Jelly’s Guard, primarily to surfers.

While researching the symbiosis between clownfish and sea anemones, club members learned that the mucous coat of clownfish, with its high concentration of magnesium, prevents them from being stung by sea anemones.

Clownfish inhabit the tentacles of anemones, which have stinging cells similar to those of jellyfish, to protect themselves from predators.

The students also found that the chemical properties of the mucous coat of clownfish can prevent jellyfish nematocysts from being activated as well.

Following their discovery, project leader Rara Shigematsu, 17, began conducting her own experiments involving the mixture of magnesium and ordinary skin creams to produce the most effective guard against jellyfish stings.

The development of the jellyfish sting inhibitor got fully underway after the club agreed to cooperate in the marketing of the product with a company in Shizuoka. The club had received numerous inquiries from companies about their research.

“I would like to contribute the profits to the local economy,” Shigematsu said.

If the product is financially successful, the aquarium club intends to use the earnings to resurrect the Nagahama Aquarium, once a popular local landmark that was closed in the 1980s due to the deterioration of the facility.

According to the club, its project was started in hopes of reviving the aquarium, which opened its doors in 1935 and had been embraced by locals as a symbol of the area.

The aquarium club — a rarity across the country — opens its facility to the public once a month to exhibit some 2,000 fish of 150 local species.

With surfing being newly added to the program for the 2020 Tokyo Games, Shigematsu is seizing the opportunity to market the product to surfers, who are frequent victims of jellyfish stings.

She is working on developing merchandise at the same time as she prepares for university entrance exams.

“Managing both at the same time is hard, but I will continue to enjoy the experiments” in the lead up to launching the product, Shigematsu said, adding that she also wants to contribute to the local community after graduation.