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"Glowing Proteins- a guiding star for biochemistry"-Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 2008 "for the discovery and development of the green fluorescent protein, GFP".

The remarkable brightly glowing green fluorescent protein, GFP, was first observed in the beautiful jellyfish, Aequorea victoria in 1962. Since then, this protein has become one of the most important tools used in contemporary bioscience. With the aid of GFP, researchers have developed ways to watch processes that were previously invisible, such as the development of nerve cells in the brain or how cancer cells spread.Tens of thousands of different proteins reside in a living organism, controlling important chemical processes in minute detail. If this protein machinery malfunctions, illness and disease often follow. That is why it has been imperative for bioscience to map the role of different proteins in the body.(1)

By using DNA technology, researchers can now connect GFP to other interesting, but otherwise invisible, proteins. This glowing marker allows them to watch the movements, positions and interactions of the tagged proteins....In one spectacular experiment, researchers succeeded in tagging different nerve cells in the brain of a mouse with a kaleidoscope of colours.(2)
Karel Svoboda at the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories on Long Island is doing something no one else has ever done before. He is watching how mice think. He doesn't sit and watch a mouse in a maze with a puzzled expression on its face no, he watches the brain of a mouse react to new experiences. How does he do this?
The mice created by a genetic strategy termed 'brainbow'will have a similar effect on neuroscience as Google Earth had on cartography. Using a brainbow of colors researchers will now be able to map the neural circuits of the brain. The individually colored neurons will help define the complex tangle of neurons that comprise the brain and nervous system. By creating a wiring diagram of the brain researchers hope to help identify the defective wiring found in neurodegenerative diseases such as Altzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
In the Brainbow mice, the Harvard researchers have introduced genetic machinery that randomly mixes green, cyan and yellow fluorescent proteins in individual neurons thereby creating a palette of ninety distinctive hues and colors.(3)

From an impressive list of 'Cool Uses':
'Cool Uses': stFRET 'A Worm That Changes Color When It Flexes'
stFRET is a real time optical sensor system that measures the amount of mechanical stress structural proteins undergo. Mechanical stress is central to many phenomena such as hearing, touch, and the regulation of blood pressure, however it is rarely studied at the molecular level. This was the impetus for Prof. Sachs (SUNY Buffalo) to develop a stress probe which can be inserted into structural proteins.(3)

(1)http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/chemistry/laureates/2008/
(2) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081008100616.htm
(3)http://www.conncoll.edu/ccacad/zimmer/GFP-ww/cooluses0.html
http://www.conncoll.edu/ccacad/zimmer/GFP-ww/history.html
Read more about the Nobel Prize winnners individually at:
http://www.mbl.edu/news/features/shimomura.html
http://www.bumc.bu.edu/ about Senior scientist emeritus and Corporation member at the Marine Biological Laboratory and an Emeritus Professor of Physiology and Biophysics at the Boston University School of Medicine;
http://www.columbia.edu/cu/biology/news-events-data/news/marty-08/index.html about Prof. Martin Chalfie on the Biological Sciences, Columbia University website, and
http://www.tsienlab.ucsd.edu/Publication.htm about Roger Y. Tsien on the Univ. of C alifornia San Diego website

From Science Daily news report:

Osamu Shimomura, a Japanese citizen, was born in 1928 in Kyoto, Japan. He obtained his Ph.D. in organic chemistry in 1960 from Nagoya University, Japan. He is now professor emeritus at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA, and at Boston University Medical School.
Martin Chalfie, a US citizen, was born in 1947 and grew up in Chicago. He obtained his Ph.D. in neurobiology in 1977 from Harvard University. He has been the William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of Biological Sciences at Columbia University in New York since 1982.
Roger Y. Tsien, another US citizen, was born in 1952 in New York. He obtained his Ph.D. in physiology in 1977 from Cambridge University. He has been Professor at University of California, San Diego since 1989.

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