Join 3,378 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Nobel Prize Chemistry 2008: The notorious GFP
October 9, 2008 9:38 AM   Subscribe

The 2008 Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to scientists who advanced the use of jellyfish green florescent protein, or GFP (previously), an indispensable tool in molecular biology. The man who discovered the GFP gene, however, is doing something quite different these days.

More links: Several GFP derivatives of many different colors have been made, although I personally wouldn't encourage kids make bacteria/agar plate art, though. (more ">here, and Tsien's wreath for a department holiday party here. Such proteins not only allow the tagging of specific proteins, but also allow real-time imaging (read: movies!) of proteins moving about a cell in response to a stimulus. Martin Zimmer's page on GFP with more info, and a link to this, uhhh... [opinion withheld] "Notorious GFP" video.

Profile pages on the winners: Roger Tsien, Martin Chalfie, and Osamu Shimomura.
posted by NikitaNikita (13 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
PS:

This is the borked link: http://www.conncoll.edu/ccacad/zimmer/GFP-ww/tsien.html

This is how you spell "fluorescent."
posted by NikitaNikita at 9:41 AM on October 9, 2008


Oh, and a link back to the previously discussed Brainbow would be relevant, too.

I'll stop adding stuff now.
posted by NikitaNikita at 9:42 AM on October 9, 2008


The Dr. Prasher guy seemed like a cool guy. Heard this story on NPR this morning. I love stories where one guy who has something other people need, says "Sure."

If they were musicians, he'd have said, "I need $2 million for that 20 second sample."

Prasher's funding had run out, he wasn't getting more, got another job, but suffered a layoff.

Loved the quote about how if the winning scientists happened to be in his town he'd expect them to buy him dinner.

Not trying to say his contribution was or wasn't as important as the winners', but if so, those two need to rally to get him included as well. This would be a huge altruist gesture on their side of things though. "Sure, take a third of our prize." It was like a half a million or something.

I don't think Dr. Prasher is hating life though. Just sounds like he's worried about making ends meet and staying relevant.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:53 AM on October 9, 2008


Was Dr. Prasher working in a university lab? In academia, scientists often share material and are (usually) repaid with things like authorship on resulting papers, increased name recognition and respect in the scientific community, etc., which in turn helps them immensely in securing tenure and future grant money. Also, it's generally the case that when one discovers something (e.g. clones a gene), the information is made public, the sequence deposited in GenBank, and therefore usable by everyone else. I don't think it's very comparable to music licensing.
posted by statolith at 10:27 AM on October 9, 2008


Remember this story when McCain says something like "My friends, we're spending millions of pork dollars to study jellyfish. Pork pork pork my friends."
posted by ALongDecember at 10:39 AM on October 9, 2008


But the scientist who found the gene for that protein, and gave it to the eventual Nobel winners, is no longer working in the field. He drives a shuttle bus for an auto dealership.

Damn. that seems grotesquely unfair.

This journalist states there is a Nobel prize agenda: "This year's laureates are notably de-Americanised".
posted by nickyskye at 10:49 AM on October 9, 2008


Sharing research materials, especially when your publication is entirely about the production of those materials, is basically expected. Prasher could have tried to patent the gene though, and then his employers (and possibly he depending on their policies) would have gotten licensing royalties over the year.

Not trying to say his contribution was or wasn't as important as the winners', but if so, those two need to rally to get him included as well.

It wasn't, so they don't.

"My friends, we're spending millions of pork dollars to study jellyfish. Pork pork pork my friends."

I'm surprised he hasn't brought up the biggest piece of scientific pork ever.
posted by grouse at 11:01 AM on October 9, 2008


Prasher worked for Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute at the time of discovery. This is the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, though, and it's about the utilization of the gene, not the discovery.

He was a co-author on a paper with one of the awarded scientists that has thousands of citations.
posted by dhartung at 11:10 AM on October 9, 2008


My wife did a lot of her doctorate work with GFP in neurons, to trace electrical activity in real time. Her doctorate would not have been as possible (or at all possible) without this type of imaging capability, which was all based on being able to make neuronal "transactions" glow at certain wavelengths so they could be observed in real time, in 3D.

Watching her movies of cell activity in those eerie green tones, and seeing the 3D version, well, it was damn near magical.

She was at Woods Hole this past summer and got to talk with some of Prasher's peers. Very neat stuff.
posted by blixco at 11:21 AM on October 9, 2008


This journalist states there is a Nobel prize agenda: "This year's laureates are notably de-Americanised".

Eh. The Gallo thing does stick out a bit, but a full 50% of this year's science winners are American.

And doesn't everyone acknowledge that the literature prize is largely political?
posted by mr_roboto at 11:29 AM on October 9, 2008


I worked with this stuff in undergrad. Even at the time (more than a decade), we knew it was only a matter of time before glow in the dark fish/bunny rabbits/etc.

blixco - I'm glad to hear somebody managed to do that sort of thing. GFP was unfortunately WAY TOO BIG relative to the signaling proteins I was trying to track.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 12:14 PM on October 9, 2008


=( This story ruined my day.

Hell, if I'm by Huntsville, I'm buying him a meal.
posted by porpoise at 2:58 PM on October 9, 2008


Grumpy chemist rant: can we just get a Nobel in biology already? Every year, they have to shoehorn one in with either medicine or chemistry, thus depriving deserving people in those fields their chance. I know that when it was set up, physiology/medicine and biology were essentially the same thing, but come on. GFP is a great piece of work that deserves a Nobel, but not in chemistry.
posted by Dr.Enormous at 4:15 PM on October 9, 2008


« Older Smuggler's Britain...  |  "Ever since President Bush con... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments