The newest optical techniques are making cell biology a little clearer, but it's still a murky business, watching cells work. A new technique that illuminates RNA — the builder of proteins, making copies according to DNA's blueprint — is one way to shine a light on that process.
Researchers have been using green fluorescent protein for years, tagging molecules and cells to make them glow under certain conditions and when certain changes occur. Now scientists at Weill Cornell Medical School in New York have figured out how to make RNA molecules light up, so they can watch them at work.
Monitoring RNA could help biologists understand how and when the molecules move around in cells, in response to which signals. This could help answer questions about gene expression and about viruses, which use RNA instead of DNA as their genetic material.
Jeremy Paige and colleagues at Weill Cornell worked with derivatives of the green fluorescent protein molecule, called fluorophores, which are what make the molecule glow in certain light wavelengths. They looked for short RNA molecules that could bind to them, the team explains in a paper published today in Science.
They found a host of combinations across the visible spectrum, but just like with jellyfish protein, green was the best. A combination of RNA and fluorophore complexes nicknamed Spinach is just as bright as GFP, the researchers say. What's more, it doesn't bleach under microscopic light, and it makes molecules glow faster than regular GFP. They tested it with E. coli and watched bacterial colonies light up.
The method could be a simpler way to tag RNAs for a wide range of applications, the researchers say.
Now they can make new designer diseases to make people glow in the dark. Using a nifty retro virus. Admit it, you were thinking about it as well.
@sacridias, Sport teams could really be of a different color; not just the uniform?
@bubbaGump, these emo kids could really be different, there parents colored their hair, now they colored their skin. So many applications, now we just have to find a way to control it to a specific part of the body and possibly strobe at various rates to generate really cool effects. I was holding out for the cuddle fish method of colorization, but this seems more efficient and less costly.
Not to mention mood coloring, so the florescence could react to specific chemicals blue people could be happy, red means they are angry, talk about better communication.
We could brainstorm applications of the technology forever.
I am not reading to make Blue Smurfs yet. Tho, I seen the previews. It seems like a cute movie.
Popeye knew that Spinach was Radioactive long ago.
Oh, and POPSCI should start working the on the Spam filters once more, it's letting far too many through again.