Physicists made a living cell

The special epistemological status of science and modern physics

For the first time, physicists have succeeded in making a living cell behave like a low-power laser.

Initially, a cell was genetically engineered to produce a fluorescent protein first derived from luminous jellyfish. Then, by pumping faint blue light into such cells, the scientists were able to make them emit a coherent green laser beam. These studies can be used in therapies using light therapy, as well as in improving the quality of microscopic images.

A laser is a device that converts pump energy (light, electrical, thermal, chemical, etc.) into the energy of a coherent, monochromatic, polarized and narrowly directed radiation flux. Most often, lasers found in everyday life are solid-state, they use specially created materials with special optical properties to generate a light beam – such are compact and video disc players, all kinds of scanners and hundreds of other devices.

Experiments carried out by the staff of the Wellman Center for Photomedicine at the University Hospital of the American state of Massachusetts have shown for the first time that a living organism is capable of producing laser radiation. Malte Gaether and Seuk Hyun Yoon have used green fluorescent protein as the amplification medium found in any laser. Green fluorescent protein (GFP) is a protein isolated from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria that fluoresces in the green range when illuminated with blue light. Currently, the protein gene is widely used as a luminous label in cellular and molecular biology to study the expression of cellular proteins.

Researchers were able to genetically engineer GFP-producing cells from a human kidney tissue culture. These new cells were then placed between two tiny mirrors, separated by only 20 microns from each other, where they were pumped with blue light. After that, they began to emit a weak blue light with all the characteristics of laser radiation. At the same time, the cells retained their viability throughout the entire process. In an interview that accompanies the journal publication, the authors point out that a living system of such cells is a regenerating laser; if fluorescent protein molecules die, cells produce new ones.

“In the field of cell photography, this method makes it possible to observe intracellular processes with unprecedented clarity and sensitivity,” the scientists note.

“Typically, light therapy physicians are looking for a way to deliver laser radiation from an external source deep into the tissue. Now we can approach the solution of this problem in a different way – we are able to amplify the light in the tissue itself, ”the researchers said.

The science Physics Make Alive Cell

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