The Italian Almanac


Light Up the Cancer

Italian researchers have genetically modified a fluorescent jellyfish to light up cancer cells so they can be caught and treated in time. A National Research Council team led by Fabio Beltram presented say they've added DNA to the jellyfish's Green Fluoresecent Protein (GFP) to turn it into a sort of "roving light-bulb" that tracks down and illuminates diseased cells

The cells can then be destroyed before they develop into life-threatening tumours. Presenting the team's work at a conference, Beltram said: "It's possible to add more DNA which acts as a trained vector to seek target proteins". Once it binds to the cancerous protein, the tumour cells change shape and colour, he said - much as GFP turns the originally blue jellyfish green. The breakthrough has "enormous biomedical potential," he said.

The jellyfish, Aequorea victoria - also called the crystal jelly - is found in abundance off the west coast of North America. GFP was first discovered in 1962 and has since revolutionised the study of cell biology, leading to a new understanding of many biologocal processes.