Medical uses and Interactions with other organisms

The enzyme luciferase offers new medical imaging agent for blood clot detection. Luciferase is the enzyme that makes fireflies glow and it is a new medical imaging agent that is better at monitoring treatment with heparin, which is a blood thinner that people take to prevent or treat blood clots. A protein from the luciferase is combined with a special dye that allows the protein to emit near infrared light. In laboratory experiments, the new material was able to successfully detect small amounts of a specific blood protein which is used to monitor the effectiveness of heparin treatment.

Researchers are working on a treatment for cancer that uses the same chemical reaction that makes fireflies flash. They insert the firefly gene that makes them flash into cancerous cells. This makes the cells able to produce luciferase, the enzyme that enables them to glow. The scientists then put in a photosynthesizing agent, a chemical that makes cells sensitive to light. They add luciferan last. The luciferase reacts with the luciferan, the cells light up, and 89% of the cancer-like cells are killed within 24 hours. Now the challenge in humans is how to deliver the key components to only cancer cells, not the healthy normal cells. Click here for more details on using luciferase to treat cancer by Dr. Theodossis Theodossiou and Dr. John S. Hothersall.

The larvae of some Asiatic species are aquatic and important predators of snails that act as intermediate hosts of organisms that cause disease in man.

Fireflies do have predators, some of which include the American Toad, Bats, and other nocturnal animals.


Next up are some firefly Facts!

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