Genes from fireflies shed light show causes of infertility

March 28th, 2009 - 5:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 28 (IANS) Genes from fireflies and jellyfish are virtually shedding light on possible causes of infertility and auto-immune diseases in humans.
Auto-immune diseases are those in which something goes wrong with your immune system and it attacks healthy cells and tissues and makes you sick.

Scientists are using the luminescent and florescent genes to illuminate cells that produce a hormone linked to auto-immune conditions, which include rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

The technique will help scientists track the production of the hormone prolactin, which ensures supplies of breast milk in nursing mothers but can be overproduced by some pituitary tumours, causing infertility.

Prolactin has been linked to more than 300 biological functions. It is believed to play a role in auto-immune diseases, including the inflammation of cells and tissues.

Scientists from the universities of Edinburgh, Manchester and Liverpool harnessed firefly and jellyfish genes, which enable these creatures to emit light, and used them to create a chemical reaction to light up cells expressing prolactin in rats.

The technique means that scientists can identify when and where prolactin is expected, to look at how the hormone works in real time, said a release of Edinburgh University.

The study was published in Molecular Endocrinology.

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