Jellyfish enlighten our view of cells.

Fluorescent North American jellyfish species contain green fluorescent protein that absorbs blue light from the environment and in turn produce a green luminescence. Researchers became interested in this protein in particular, compared to other fluorescent methods, due to its ability to fold and function without the need for additional enzymes. The protein’s gene can be delivered into novel genomes using viruses or a number of other techniques to cause it to be expressed in certain cell types. This gives us the ability to follow cell lines as they develop and study gene expression, both of which were too small and difficult to identify before this development. This work resulted in a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2008 and has continued to be developed into a multitude of colors and inspired work and development of other proteins that emit near-infrared light that can be more easily detected through tissue.

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