October 9, 2008

Three Win Nobel Prize for ‘Jellyfish Glow’ Work

Osamu Shimomura of Japan and Americans Martin Chalfie and Roger Tsien were honoured for their work on green fluorescent protein, or GFP.Researchers worldwide now use GFP to track such processes as the development of brain cells, the growth of tumours and the spread of cancer cells.It has let them study nerve cell damage from Alzheimer's disease and see how insulin-producing beta cells arise in the pancreas of a growing embryo, for example.The academy compared the impact on science to the invention of the microscope. For a decade GFP has been "a guiding star for biochemists, biologists, medical scientists and other researchers", it said. Dr John Frangioni, an associate professor of medicine and radiology at Harvard Medical School, said: "For the first time scientists could study both genes and proteins in living cells and in living animals."When exposed to ultraviolet light the protein glows green. So it can act as a tracer to expose the movements of other, invisible proteins it is attached to as they go about their business. It can also be used to mark particular cells in a tissue and show when and where particular genes turn on and off.Mr Shimomura, 80, works at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, and Boston University Medical School. Professor Chalfie, 61, is at Columbia University, New York, and Professor Tsien, 56, is at the University of California, San Diego.The literature prize winner will be announced today.

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