Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Roger Tsien discussed current research on fluorescent proteins, or proteins that emit bright colors when exposed to ultraviolet blue light, and their uses in surgery at Emory on Thursday.
The Department of Biochemistry held the lecture, titled Breeding and Building molecules to Spy on Cells and Disease Processes, at the Woodruff Health Sciences building as part of the Department of Biochemistrys annual Donald B. McCormick Lecture. The annual lecture honors McCormick, who served as the chair of the department from 1979 to 1994 and is currently professor emeritus at Emorys School of Medicine.
McCormick is recognized for his many achievements including the publication of more than 500 papers, leading expertise in nutritional biochemistry, and membership in notable committees such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
In 2008, Tsien received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his discovery of the green fluorescent protein (GFP) with his colleagues Osamu Shimomura and Martin Chalfie. He is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and professor at the University of California-San Diego.
He focused on proteins called miniSOGs, which are single oxygen-generating miniproteins and genetic tags used in electron microscopy (EM). He said electrons are beamed at an object to produce a highly magnified image. These miniSOGs are sequences of amino acids that can be attached to proteins, Tsien noted. When miniSOGs are exposed to blue light, they produce a type of molecular oxygen that is visible in EM. The use of EM creates an amplified image under the microscope which is of a greater resolution than the image produced by light microscopy.
It is really amazing how many different applications there are for the tag, James Roed, post doctorate fellow at the School of Medicine noted. The design is simple yet so complex and is really going to revolutionize cancer treatment but has potential in being used to tether probes to drugs as well.
Tsien explained the clinical applications of fluorescent dyes in cancer research and treatment. This is a very nonselective process. Tsien explained. When you try to do this with a fluorescent tag IV injection into a mouse, you get a fluorescent tail, because it sticks to the epithelia, which is the skin of the animal, at the site of the injection.
It then travels to different regions of the body but practically never reaches the tumor that you care about, Tsien said.
We decided in our lab that what was necessary was a way of making this process selective, not just indiscriminate, he said.
He then showed images of tumors in mice and explained the difficulty the human eye experiences in differentiating a tumor from the surrounding flesh. When the tissue was exposed via fluorescent illumination, the boundaries of the tumor became easily distinguishable as the fluorescent light blue mass stood out.
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Nobel Laureate Explores Proteins, Surgery
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