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May 1, 2006

Now scientists are splicing modified proteins from the glow-in-the-dark sea pansy - onto microscopic semiconductors to make self-illuminated dots.

Topics: Medical Science News

jcn-seapansie1.jpegThe sea pansy (Renilla reniformis), an anthozoan and a collection of polyps having different forms and functions, is strikingly bioluminescent when disturbed, due to a Green Fluorescent Protein (a light-emitting bioluminescent protein called amino luciferase), a molecule that has become extremely important recently for modern biological science. It is common on current-swept sand flats in protected areas, distributed from low tide to subtidal areas.

Now scientists are splicing modified proteins from the glow-in-the-dark sea pansy - onto microscopic semiconductors to make self-illuminated dots. These tiny crystals, called quantum dots, may soon light their own paths through the human body:

060426_mouse_dots_01.jpegQuantum dots, which are 10 to 50 or so atoms wide, have been around for at least two decades. Although scientists have high hopes for the dots in fields such as super computing, most current applications cash in on the dots' optical characteristics. Because quantum dots light up, or fluoresce, when struck by narrow bands of light energy, they are especially useful for medical imaging.

Like other current biomedical imaging technologies that illuminate nanoparticles, such as gold flecks, most quantum dots light up only when an external energy source, such as laser, strikes and excites them. Relying on external light stimulation causes a couple of problems. Light from the source cannot reach very deep into tissue. And even in areas the source can penetrate, the light bounces off tissue, clouding the picture the way oncoming headlights diffuse on a rain-streaked windshield.

Nanoparticles that make their own light could skirt such issues and help medical technicians take clearer pictures from deeper inside the human body.

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Posted by Richard at May 1, 2006 5:17 PM


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