What is brainbow technology?


All nerve cells appear shallow off-white and invisible under the microscope. It wasn't until Italian scientist Gorky invented Gorky dyeing technology that scientists found that the dyeing effect was like a black-and-white photograph. Later, scientists successively invented technologies such as Nisel's staining, biotin staining, and horseradish peroxidase staining to show the "aroma" of nerve cells, which can be yellow, blue or brown, but the nerve cells on each "photo" are a color. In 2007, a technique called "brain rainbow" was born, randomly dyeing brain nerve cells with dozens of different colors, looking like an impressionist oil painting, with each nerve fiber delicate. This has given a great impetus to the study of the structure and development of the nervous system.

"Brainbow" is a technique that combines molecular biology with genetics. The experimenters transferred the fluorescent protein gene into the genome of the experimental animal. When these genes are expressed in nerve cells, the nerve cells fluoresce. If the fluorescent protein genes of different spectrums such as red, green, and blue are transferred, nerve cells will show brilliant and colorful colors because of the different expression of these genes, and the principle is similar to the principle of color TV displays.

With brainrainbow technology, scientists can label nerve cells in different parts of the brain or at different stages of development in laboratory animals, thereby gaining a new understanding of the organization and function of the nervous system. The rich colors of brainbow technology can help scientists quickly establish a map of the structure and function of "brain connections" and draw a "panorama" for deciphering the mysteries of the brain. Brainbow technology has also opened the door to the treatment of human mental illness. Using brainbow imaging, scientists began to study the correlation between diseases such as autism, intellectual disability, mania, depression, and learning disabilities and abnormal neuronal circuitry in the brain.

The birth of brainbow technology, and a legendary story. In the 60s of the 20th century, Japanese marine biologist Osamu Shimomura became deeply interested in the phenomenon of jellyfish emitting, and every summer he rushed to the northwest coast of the United States to retrieve crystal jellyfish to study its luminescence principle. After years of hard work, he extracted a substance from these jellyfish, known as green fluorescent protein, which gives the jellyfish a faint green glow.

In the 80s of the 20th century, genetic engineering emerged in the field of life sciences, and American molecular biologist Prischer thought of using genetic engineering technology to transfer green fluorescent proteins to other biological cell proteins, which is equivalent to "fluorescent labeling" of these proteins, so that these proteins' every move can not be hidden. Prescher repeatedly ran into a wall in applying for research funding, and it was not until 1988 that he applied for $200,000 from the American Cancer Society. With this money, after 3 years of immersion experiments, Prischer finally extracted the green fluorescent protein gene from the body of the crystal jellyfish. At this time, Prischer could no longer conduct in-depth research due to the exhaustion of research funds, but fortunately published a research paper in time and gave his hard-earned green fluorescent protein gene to two scientists, Martin Chalfi and Qian Yongjian.

A few years later, researchers in Chalfi's lab successfully expressed green fluorescent protein in nematodes, and Qian Yongjian's lab modified green fluorescent protein to become a colorful fluorescent protein. Since then, fluorescent protein has become a "palette" that can be adjusted at will, as long as different colors of fluorescent protein are mixed with each other in different proportions, tens of thousands of colors can be tuned and expressed in the body of genetically modified animals. This technology brought new prospects for the research of the entire life sciences, and was later widely used in scientific research.

In 2008, the Nobel Prize in Chemistry was awarded to three scientists, Osamu Shimomura, Charphy and Qian Yongjian, for their contributions to the study of green fluorescent proteins. At the press conference, both Chalfi and Qian Yongjian praised the research results of Prischer that year. However, the "fourth hero" Prischer had to leave the laboratory to work everywhere due to lack of research funds, becoming an ordinary shuttle bus driver, and after Qian Yongjian learned the news, he hired him to continue his research in his laboratory.

Although Prischer missed the Nobel Prize, his contribution to science is also remembered. The history of science is full of stars, but there are also countless unsung heroes like Prischer who work silently, like the blue sky behind the rainbow.