iLabs: The Answer to Brainbows and Their Colors
Originally posted on NC Museum of Natural Sciences Education Blog:
Earlier this month the Micro World Investigate Lab hosted a group from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers on a Saturday morning. We did a class on Bioluminescence, Fluorescence, and the discovery of Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP) by Nobel Prize Winner, Osamu Shimomura.
It was a great class, and we even had some GFP to “experiment with” courtesy of the NC State University’s BTEC ( Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center). Everyone got to learn a bit about how the protein was discovered, how changing its pH affects whether the protein fluoresces or not, and how newer forms of the protein are used in cutting edge medical research.
One application is in brain research. Use of multi-colored fluorescent proteins allows scientists to visualize various brain cells and monitor their actions under different conditions. The technology has progressed so far that from a small group of 5 colors, researchers can now create a color palette of 90 shades, making such visualizations incredibly powerful.