A glowing jellyfish cell has been coaxed into making laser light.
In a document published in Nature Photonics,,Malte Gather and Seok Hyun Yun at the Wellman Centre for Photomedicine at Massachusetts General Hospital in the US explained how they used a jellyfish cell to engineer a light-emitting protein, which when mixed with blue light turned into a green laser.
The researchers say the new find could have a positive effect on microscope imaging and light-based therapies. According to the scientists, laser light, which reads DVDs and supermarket scanners, is different from normal light as it produces a narrow band of colours and the light waves all oscillate together in a sequential pattern.
The fishy laser was apparently born out of scientific curiosity after the pair realised that biological substances had never played a major role in lasers.
They wondered if there was a fundamental reason why laser light did not occur in nature and if they could find a way to achieve it in biological substances or living organisms.
As a result they decided to look at green fluorescent protein (GFP) to see if they could create something. They chose this because the protein can be induced to emit light without any additional enzymes.
The protein has also been studied for many years, meaning the scientists had an idea of its properties and what made it tick. To see if they could get it to light up, the researchers first assembled a device consisting of an inch-long cylinder, with mirrors at each end, filled with a solution of GFP in water.
Through this they were able to see that the GFP could amplify the energy into brief pulses of laser light.
When struck by blue light, electrons jumped up and down and turned fluorescent green. However, it didn’t end there, with the scientists explaining that in order to make the laser effect the GFP triggered its own molecules to spit and set off the chain reaction required.
The scientists hope that the discovery may help them find ways to bring optical communications and computing, currently done with inanimate electronic devices, into the world of biotechnology.
They’re now working on replicating the effect in a range of different colours.