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Like penicillin, it all started with an accident.

In 1997 a Japanese researcher named Masaru Okabe was looking for a way to track sperm development. His thought was to cram a jellyfish gene encoding a glowing protein — green fluorescent protein, or GFP — into a mouse’s sperm. Then the sperm cells would literally light up when exposed to a certain wavelength of light, allowing him to track them as they developed. But instead, he wound up with the inverse: nearly everything but the sperm glowed. He had a full-on fluorescent green mouse.

The mistake was fortuitous. Glowing mice aren’t just seriously cool; they’re also medically relevant. For instance, other researchers have similarly tagged human cancer cells with a glowing red protein and injected them into glowing green mice (engineered to be fur-less as well, so that the glow is visible). Then they can track the cancer as it grows and spreads, differentiating it from healthy cells by color alone.

Glowing cancer cells in glowing mouseRed tumor in green mouse

(Left: Fluorescent red cancer cells lined with the fluorescent green blood vessels of a fluorescent green mouse. Right: Fluorescent red tumor in a fluorescent green mouse. Both images from here.)

Below the fold: glowing fishies, bunnies, and kitties…

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Finger-painted by a kindergartener? Think again: foot-painted by a cockroach.

Cockroach art

“Eleven Steps” by Steven R. Kutcher
Hissing Cockroach (Gromphadorhina portentosa)
With gouache on paper, 2003.
Please check out his website at BugArtBySteven.com

This is what the artist looks like: Read the rest of this entry »