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An Illuminating Study

Firefly glow molecule could help speed drug research

MONDAY, Dec. 23, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- The molecule that makes fireflies glow could illuminate the effectiveness of new medicines and speed development of new drugs for cancer, AIDS, Alzheimer's and other diseases.

That's the suggestion of a study in tomorrow's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers at the University of Michigan Health System report the firefly glow molecule can be used to show whether a new drug is effective at killing cancer cells or producing other effects in the body.

The researchers inserted the gene for the firefly glow-producing molecule into mice with cancer. The researchers were able to keep the molecule from producing the telltale glow until cells started to die in response to cancer treatment given to the mice.

With the use of a highly sensitive camera, the researchers could detect the firefly light as cells in the mice glowed as they died in response to the cancer treatment.

The findings indicate the glow molecule could provide scientists with real-time information about the effectiveness of new medications. That could allow faster testing of new drugs for cancer, stroke, AIDS, blood diseases, autoimmune disorders, heart attack damage, Alzheimer's disease and other conditions where drugs need to kill cells or stop the death of cells.

The glow molecule could also be used by scientists to monitor various kinds of cell processes.

More information

Here's where to learn more about fireflies.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, Dec. 23, 2002
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