Press release

Dundee expert to feature in CBBC documentary

Published on 25 March 2019

Dr Paul O’Mahoney, a Post-Doctoral Research Assistant from Dundee’s School of Medicine, will feature in an episode of ‘My Life: Into the Sun’

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The programme shares the highs and lows of two young children, Alice Tyson from the UK and Thapelo Mothibe from South Africa, who both have the same rare skin disease.

During the programme, the girls who are afflicted with Xeroderma Pigmentosum (XP), a rare condition which means they are extremely sensitive to sunlight, travel to northern Norway to experience life outside together and search for a safe holiday retreat.

Dr O’Mahoney, an expert in photobiology and skin disease, was invited to join the girls to provide expert knowledge on XP, ultraviolet (UV) light and how it affects the pair.

Paul said, “We are all sensitive to the sun to some degree but Alice and Thapelo have an increased risk of cancers because they lack the genes to repair the UV-damaged DNA in their cells. Those with XP are incredibly prone to skin cancers and even have to be careful in ambient UV light coming into their homes from windows and even lightbulbs, whereas the rest of us can mostly ignore that.

“XP is super rare, affecting about 100 people in the UK, but it’s important to raise awareness of the condition. It is passed on genetically and sadly there is no cure, so it’s crucial to diagnose it early if symptoms become apparent in order to best manage the condition.

“Part of the documentary takes place in the north of Norway because there is much less UV light than the UK for example, and although it is cold it might otherwise be a good setting for people suffering from XP to experience life outside.”

Paul, who spends the majority of his time in the lab at the Scottish Photodynamic Therapy Centre in Ninewells Hospital, said it was the trip of a lifetime.

“The girls got to experience dog-sledging and hunting for the aurorae borealis,” he said.

“It’s not just a documentary about life with XP, it is also a documentary about their friendship. Both girls have such a hard time doing anything so it was amazing to see them laughing and playing together. Thapelo, who had never even seen snow before, was such a bundle of joy and has a really positive outlook on life.

“It was fantastic to see them enjoy life outside and each other’s company. It’s often easy for the majority of us to take for granted our skin so it is great to have been part of such a wonderful documentary.”

‘My Life: Into the Sun’ will be aired on the CBBC channel on Monday 25th March at 5.30pm.


Press Office, University of Dundee
Story category Student work/achievement