Glow in the dark tumors: it sounds like something out of a sci-fi novel, but actually, the use of a dye that glows under infrared light could drastically improve surgical outcomes for cancer patients and reduce the chance of recurrence.
Often, surgical removal is difficult because doctors can’t always be certain of the location of tumor margins. So researchers tested a dye that is already approved by the FDA and glows green under infrared light.This dye concentrates in cancerous tissues, so when the surgeon shines an infrared light on the surgical area, the tumor cells will glow.
Working with mice, they found that this dye helped them ‘highlight’ tumors before they were visible to the naked eye. Veterinarians then used the dye on several pet dogs with lung cancer before surgery, and found that it improved visibility of the tumors.
After proving the effectiveness of this dye in mice and dogs, human clinical trials were approved, and the dye actually helped doctors visualize human tumors as well as diagnose patients more accurately. This is a great example of research progressing from bench to bedside. Read more about it here:
Turns out that some fish have a secret code- of colors! We now know that over 180 species of fish exhibit biofluorescence: they absorb blue light, transform it, and emit a different colored light. In fact, fluorescent proteins that were originally derived from jellyfish are now commonly used in biomedical research applications. Researchers can track these fluorescent proteins to determine gene expression, which is pretty cool.
But while scientists have known about biofluorescence in jellyfish and corals for years, it’s only recently that biofluorescence in eels, fish, and sharks has been observed. It hasn’t been detected before, because like a true secret code, not everyone can ‘read’ it. Many fish have yellow filters in their eyes, allowing them to see this secret code- but the colors are undetectable to the human eye. The discovery was made by accident- underwater photography using blue lights revealed an eel that glowed green when the pictures were developed!
So what’s the purpose of this secret code? Well, they’re not quite sure yet. But it will be interesting to see what scientists can learn about these fish, both for a better understanding of the animals as well as a determination of possible research applications. Another reason why science kicks ass- unlocking secret codes is all in a day’s work!