Color Coding

March 2, 2018
Scientists are copying glowing organisms to study cancer cells like these.
GARY LUKER

People are using bioluminescent animals to solve problems. Take GARY and KATHY LUKER. They are scientists. They study cancer. Bioluminescence gives them information about the disease. This information would otherwise be invisible.

In their work, the Lukers turn to glowing creatures like click beetles. The insects have organs that make light. The light is red or green. The Lukers studied chemicals in the beetle’s organs. Then they made the chemicals in a lab. They used them in experiments.

In one experiment, the chemicals made healthy cells glow red. They made cancer cells light up green. That made it easy for the Lukers to tell the cells apart. Their research helps them find drugs to fight cancer. “Seeing [glowing creatures] inspires researchers,” Gary Luker says.