The enzyme luciferase that makes fireflies glow has shed light on the new medical imaging that could aid in improved detection of blood clots, say scientists.
Bruce Branchini and colleagues describe a need for new medical imaging agents that emit near-infrared light the light rays that "night vision" technology detects, enabling soldiers to see in the dark. Those rays penetrate deeper into the body and could give doctors a better way of detecting the proteins involved in blood clotting. Scientists already use luciferase, the enzyme that makes lightning bugs glow, in laboratory research. The study appears in the ACS' monthly journal Bioconjugate Chemistry
The new study describes an advance toward using luciferase in medical imaging. The scientists combined a protein obtained from firefly luciferase with a special dye that allows the protein to emit near-infrared light. In laboratory experiments, the new material successfully detected minute amounts of a specific blood protein, called factor Xa, which is used to monitor the effectiveness of heparin treatment. It offers promise for improved monitoring of heparin therapy, the article suggests.