Corporate Banner
Satellite Banner
Molecular & Clinical Diagnostics
Scientific Community
 
Become a Member | Sign in
Home>News>This Article
  News
Return

New Fluorescent Protein from Eel Revolutionizes Key Clinical Assay

Published: Friday, June 21, 2013
Last Updated: Friday, June 21, 2013
Bookmark and Share
Unagi, the sea-going Japanese freshwater eel, harbors a fluorescent protein that could serve as the basis for a revolutionary new clinical test.

Many scientists dream of making a single discovery that provides fundamental insight into nature, may be used to help save human lives, and can assist in the preservation of an endangered species.

In new research reported in the journal Cell, a Japanese team is on the verge of accomplishing this nearly impossible feat.

Unagi, the sea-going Japanese freshwater eel, harbors a fluorescent protein that could serve as the basis for a revolutionary new clinical test for bilirubin, a critical indicator of human liver function, hemolysis, and jaundice, according to researchers from the RIKEN Brain Science Institute. The discovery also sheds light on the mysterious and endangered Unagi that could contribute to its conservation.

Science from kitchen to lab to clinic

Best known as a culinary delicacy in Japan, the freshwater eel Unagi (Anguilla japonica) and related species have seen a worldwide decrease in population, probably due to the effects of global warming, and Unagi is on the brink of extinction in Japan. Yet almost nothing is know about the biology of the eel.

Drs. Atsushi Miyawaki, Akiko Kumagai and their team cloned a gene from Unagi for an unusual fluorescent protein they named UnaG, for Unagi Green protein, that allows eels to glow in the dark. UnaG is the first fluorescent protein found in vertebrates; previously they were thought to exist only in simple animals like jellyfish.

But what makes UnaG truly unique in nature is that it needs a natural chemical to activate its powerful green light emission. In a surprise twist, the compound was identified by the authors to be bilirubin, a slippery molecule universally used in clinical labs around the world as a human blood marker for liver function.

New clinical test for bilirubin

Bilirubin is the breakdown product of blood hemoglobin and is toxic if present in excess in the body like in the characteristic yellow skin and eye color conditions seen in newborn babies, jaundice and kernicterus. It is also a common marker in blood tests where bilirubin is used by doctors to assess liver function and for the assessment of health, including hemolysis, the loss of red blood cells in anemia.

By analyzing the structure of UnaG, the team discovered a novel mechanism of fluorescence enabling bilirubin to bind to UnaG and activate its light emission.  With this property, they developed a superior new assay for bilirubin with high sensitivity, accuracy and speed that may become the global clinical standard, and can be used in developing countries where child liver health is a major issue.

Role of UnaG in eel conservation

Japanese freshwater eels have a long-distance migration life cycle, growing in inland rivers and swimming far into the sea to spawn. The authors identified UnaG and bilirubin in the muscle cells of Japanese, American, and European eels where they may aid in endurance swimming during migration. The unexpected discovery of UnaG may initiate legislation to conserve endangered eel species.

“We believe that UnaG provides an unexpected foothold into several important but currently obscure areas of human health including bilirubin metabolism and muscle physiology during endurance exercise,” Miyawaki concludes. “Before the discovery of UnaG, I couldn’t imagine that basic science could have such a direct impact on human health. From a simple eel, we found a new path to the clinic.”


Further Information

Join For Free

Access to this exclusive content is for Technology Networks Premium members only.

Join Technology Networks Premium for free access to:

  • Exclusive articles
  • Presentations from international conferences
  • Over 3,300+ scientific posters on ePosters
  • More than 4,900+ scientific videos on LabTube
  • 35 community eNewsletters


Sign In



Forgotten your details? Click Here
If you are not a member you can join here

*Please note: By logging into TechnologyNetworks.com you agree to accept the use of cookies. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy policy.

Related Content

The Genetic Roots of Adolescent Scoliosis
Scientists at the RIKEN Center for Integrative Medical Sciences in collaboration with Keio University in Japan have discovered a gene that is linked to susceptibility of Scoliosis.
Thursday, July 30, 2015
Scientific News
AACC 2016 Sees Clinical Chemistry Labs Drive Precision Medicine Offerings
Biomarker assays to enable precision medicine and risk assessment, mass spec-based tests designed for use in clinical labs large and small, and liquid biopsy technology captured the spotlight at the AACC annual meeting.
Diagnosing Bacterial Infections in Blood Samples
Researchers have diagnosed a bacterial infection from a blood sample in infants.
Neurodvelopmental Disorder Cause Linked to SON Gene
A genetic link has been discovered for a previously unxplained neurodevelopmental disorder.
World's Most In-Depth Study to Detect Alzheimer's Disease
A multisite team will see the most thorough and vigorous testing for Alzheimer's ever performed on volunteers.
Personalised Medicine: Dose by Design
Personalised medicine holds the promise of a new approach to healthcare, tailored exactly to our individual needs, as Congenica's Nick Lench discussed on a recent BBC Radio 4 programme.
Misdiagnosis in HCM Tests
Genetic tests for potentially fatal heart anomaly can misdiagnose condition in black Americans.
Computers Better Predict Lung Cancer Type, Severity
Study shows automating the analysis of cancer tissue samples increases the accuracy of tumor classification and patient prognoses.
Examining New Hypotheses for Undiagnosed Patients
UnDx Consortium gathers in San Diego to create new paths to identifying currently undiagnosed illnesses.
Automating Genetic Analysis
Researchers are looking to have computers help perform genetic analysis when scientists study a patient's genome to diagnose a disease.
Understanding Tumor Evolution
Study provides insight into tumor evolution; may point to improved diagnosis and treatment.
Skyscraper Banner

SELECTBIO Market Reports
Go to LabTube
Go to eposters
 
Access to the latest scientific news
Exclusive articles
Upload and share your posters on ePosters
Latest presentations and webinars
View a library of 1,800+ scientific and medical posters
3,300+ scientific and medical posters
A library of 2,500+ scientific videos on LabTube
4,900+ scientific videos
Close
Premium CrownJOIN TECHNOLOGY NETWORKS PREMIUM FOR FREE!