Scientists Create 'Living Laser'

Technique could change light-based, imaging therapies
By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 13, 2011 2:21 AM CDT
A file photo of cells under a green filter. Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital have created cells that can produce laser light.   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Scientists have been genetically engineering organisms that glow for years, but now a team at Massachusetts General has taken the technology to a new level—to create a "living laser." They aren't blasting death rays (yet), but scientists have coaxed single cells, derived from human kidneys, to emit directed green laser light, reports the BBC. Far more than just scientists playing Dr. Frankenstein, this technology holds several real-world possibilities, especially in light-based and imaging therapies, perhaps opening the way to deeper and less intrusive diagnostic and medical techniques.

The cells were given green fluorescent protein first found in jellyfish to create the light source, then were placed between two tiny mirrors, just 20 millionths of a meter apart, to bounce the light repeatedly. When the cells were then bathed with a blue light, they could emit directed and intense laser light. The process did not kill the cells, and, in fact, if the light-generating protein is injured, the cell can produce more. You can check out the abstract to the original article at Nature Photonics here.

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