Today the Nobel Prize committee announced the Nobel in chemistry would go to a group of US and Japanese researchers who discovered the green fluorescent protein (GFP) in jellyfish and transformed it into one of the most powerful research tools in genomics. Although GFP can make glowing kitties (above), glowing bunnies, glowing monkeys and mice (below), it has far more important applications for medical research. The eye-catching protein is used as a visual tag, linked to other genes or cells that scientists are tinkering with. As a result, scientists can literally see the results of their experiments. Now you can too.

The "brainbow," with its dozens of glowing colors, was created when scientists mixed a few of the primary colors available from fluorescent jellyfish proteins (green isn't the only one). They wound up with nearly 100 colors, and used them to tag neurons in the brain so that they could follow the complicated interlinking pathways of each neuron and see the neurological structures of a mouse brain.

Early experiments with GFP created mice like these, which express the glowing green gene in all their cells — not just neurons. The result is a mouse that glows just like a jellyfish.


Usually, however, scientists link GFP with another gene — if the creature they've engineered emerges glowing like these monkeys, they know the linked gene is active too. These monkeys were engineered to have the gene for Huntington's Disease, and the gene was tagged with GFP. Because they glow, researchers are certain they have the sought-after gene and can study the monkeys to figure out possible cures for this neurodegenerative disorder. Chemistry Nobel for Green Jellyfish Protein [New Scientist] Nobel Prize for Chemistry Illuminates Disease [UK Guardian]