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Fluorescent protein to allow for less-invasive imaging?

Monday 18th July 2011
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    A fluorescent protein which will allow doctors to clearly "see" internal organs without using a scalpel or imaging techniques has been developed by Yeshiva University scientists.

    Fluorescent-protein imaging is advantageous as it does not involve exposure to radiation or the use of contrast agents, notes the study published online in journal Nature Biotechnology.

    The pioneering probe could potentially be used to allow doctors to noninvasively track the growth of tumours, more easily deciding on anti-cancer therapies.

    Using coloured fluorescent protein techniques to look inside mammals has long proved problematic to scientists, as haemoglobin in the blood absorbs the blue, green, red and other wavelengths needed to stimulate these proteins. It also absorbs any wavelengths emitted by proteins when they do light up.

    To combat this, Vladislav Verkhusha and his team have manufactured a fluorescent protein from a bacterial phytochrome, named iRFP. This both absorbs and emits light in the near-infrared section of the electromagnetic spectrum, in which tissues in mammals are almost transparent.

    The technique was tested on the livers of mice, which had adenovirus particles containing the iRFP gene injected into them. Once infected, the cells expressed the gene, producing iRFP protein. When exposed to near-infrared light, and fluorescence of the liver was detected the second day after infection, reaching a peak at day five.

    Researcher Grigory Filonov said: "iRFP not only produced a far brighter image, with higher contrast than the other fluorescent proteins, but was also very stable over time. We believe it will significantly broaden the potential uses for noninvasive whole-body imaging."

    In other news, research published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society has the potential to make detecting Alzheimer's disease "as simple as switching on a light".

    A team from Rice University developed a technique using metallic molecules predisposed to attach themselves to beta amyloid proteins which form plaques in the brains of people with Alzheimer's.

    This increases the fibrils' photoluminescence 50-fold, essentially lighting up the region in question.

    Written by Megan Smith

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