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Identifying glow-worm proteins

26 Aug, 2010

Glow-worms’ light-emitting proteins may be useful for medical imaging and drug development. Miriam Sharpe and Kurt Krause from the University of Otago explain their glow-worm research project.

Duration: 17:11

In this episode of Our Changing World, Ruth Beran accompanies University of Otago researcher Miriam Sharpe and her supervisor, Kurt Krause, on a trip to gather glow-worms (Arachnocampa luminosa) from Nichols Creek just outside of Dunedin. Their research aims to find out how glow-worms actually glow.

Glow-worm bioluminescence is unique

The light that glow-worms emit is very bright and steady and can adjust in response to their surroundings and need for food. Glow-worms are not related to any organism in which bioluminescence has already been studied in detail, so it is likely their bioluminescence has a novel underlying mechanism.

Uses of glow-worm proteins

Miriam Sharpe’s work could lead to glow-worm proteins being used for things like medical imaging, for example, to indicate blood sugar levels in diabetics or test drugs in development. Light-generating proteins, or luciferases, are already used extensively in biotechnology research, but because the light emitted by glow-worm proteins is a different colour and may work in a different way, it may complement or even replace their use.

Get news story: Glow worms may help medical breakthroughs

Programme details: Our Changing World

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