Two Americans, and one Japanese scientist, (Martin Chalfie, Roger Tsien and Osamu Shimomura) recently won a share of the Chemistry Nobel Prize for “borrowing” the glowing jellyfish trait and putting it to use.
Well, we’re at it again, “borrowing” the magical and bizarre wonders offered up by the natural world, and using these wonders to make humans healthier and happier. This time, we’ve isolated that strange trait that makes jellyfish glow in dark waters, and we’re using this trait for everything from cancer research to GMO’s.
They call it green fluorescent protein or GFP. Scientists can use what makes jellyfish glow, to show how brain cells develop or how cancer spreads. The glowing trait has also become important in biological engineering. When scientists are trying to change an animal or a plant, oftentimes they will use the gene responsible for GFP as part of the change. The “glow” will let them know whether the change has been successfully incorporated into the organism or not.
Scientists have learned how to produce this “glowing” gene in many different colors. Last year a team led from Harvard University used different fluorescent proteins to color brain cells (neurons) in up to 90 different colors. They called the image the “brainbow,” and published it in the journal Nature.
Image: Wikimedia Commons