Friday, October 10, 2008
Green Fluorescent Protein - The discovery and development of this biochemical flashlight was awarded the Nobel prize in chemistry this week. Three great brains were awarded the Nobel for GFP, Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie and Roger Tsien.
Osamu Shimomura (Woods Hole, Mass) - First isolated the protein from the outer bell of the crystal jellyfish in Washinton state in 1962.
Martin Chalfie (Columbia) - First used GFP to tag a protein in a living system (the model organism c. elegans). This method of tagging recombinant proteins then observing them is cells and whole organisms has become one of the most common techniques in bio-medical research.
Roger Tsien (UC San Diego) - Developed a whole rainbow of fluorescent proteins. This allows multiple proteins to be tagged at once and distinguished in living systems.
The observations made possible by the advent of GFP as a molecular candle are by all means amazing and good. However, I could not help but cringe when I saw the picture below of two adolescent Macaque primates who had been genetically modified with a bad Huntington's disease gene tagged with GFP. This image was published in a research paper in the Journal Nature - spring 2008. This represents an image issue science has had since the late 20th century as socially irresponsible.