Jellyfish Cells Used to Make Cancer Glow

Doctors say technique will help diagnose hard-to-spot cancers
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 2, 2010 10:14 AM CDT
Your cancer cells could glow just like this.   (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
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(Newser) – A team of British scientists has dreamed up a way to track down cancerous tumors deep inside the body—by making them light up like a jellyfish. The scientists created viruses that contain light-generating green fluorescent proteins (GFPs) derived from jellyfish cells, the BBC explains. When injected into a patient, the viruses are designed to seek out cancer cells; as they grow, they generate more light. The result: a bunch of glowing tumors that can easily be spotted by a specialized camera.

“Cancers deep within the body are difficult to spot at an early stage,” the team’s leader explained. But “when a specially-developed camera is switched on, the proteins just flare up, and you can see where the cancer cells are.” The only potential snag? The specialized cameras cost roughly $800,000 each. It's also not a go yet: The team hopes the procedure will be ready for clinical trials within five years. (Read more jellyfish stories.)

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