An eel's glow could illuminate liver disease | Science News

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An eel's glow could illuminate liver disease

Fluorescent protein binds to bilirubin, a compound the body must eliminate

1:36pm, June 13, 2013

Japanese freshwater eels (one shown) travel for miles during migration from the sea to rivers. A protein made by the eels glows when connected to bilirubin, an antioxidant. Together the two compounds may protect the eels' muscles from stress. 

An eel protein that shines green could enable a new test for liver problems and jaundice. The protein gets its glow on by connecting with the pigment bilirubin, scientists report in the June 20 Cell.

Led by bioimaging specialist Atsushi Miyawaki, scientists from the RIKEN research institute in Japan spent three years trying to figure out what switched on the protein’s glow in the species Anguilla japonica. Eventually, the scientists hit upon jaundice-causing bilirubin, a yellowish pigment that’s

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