Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a world that illuminates itself without the need of electricity? Or how much fun it would be to eat a bowl of ice cream that glows? These ideas are quickly moving from the realm of science fiction to a very palpable reality. From healthcare to candy, researchers are looking for ways to incorporate bioluminescence into our daily lives. Here is just a sampling of 5 of the many awesome ways that bioluminescence will change our world!
- Glowing Sweets
BioLume, a North Carolina-based company, has found a way to add synthetic bioluminescent compounds to sweet treats like lollipops and cake frosting. The synthetic bioluminescent in the lollipops is activated by oxygen and your saliva, and the length of glow between licks depends on the concentration of the bioluminescent compound. BioLume is currently waiting for FDA approval before the sweets can hit American markets, but the company is hopeful that these luminous confections will be hitting store shelves at a grocery near you sometime soon!
Designers are creating remarkable pieces of furniture that bring the beauty of nature into modern homes, and someday soon you might well see furniture that illuminates itself without any need of electricity. Ambio, a lamp designed by Teresa van Dongen, is a great example of how bioluminescence can become the shining light of the future. Just think of all the money you’d save on your utility bills!
- Tree Lights
In 2010, geneticist Theo Sanderson and his colleagues at Cambridge University entered the International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) competition with the idea that trees could be genetically modified with bioluminescent genes to illuminate city streets at night. The plan was for the modified trees to photosynthesize in the same way phytoplankton do: by absorbing sunlight, storing that energy in their leaves, and releasing that energy as light once the sun has set. Unfortunately, Sanderson’s team was not able to successfully grow a glowing tree, but researchers are still investigating ways to make trees bright enough to become the street lights of the future.
- Bioluminescent Tagging
Imagine doctors having the ability to see how viruses or bacteria travel through our bodies, or track the growth of cancer with even better precision. Tagging viruses, bacteria, and cancer with bioluminescence can give doctors a better understanding of how these diseases grow and travel, allowing for faster diagnoses and more effective treatments.
- Color-Coded Surgeries
Taking the idea of tagging cancer cells and viruses even further, doctors are developing ways to use bioluminescence to color-code cancer tissue, nerves, and other tissues to aid in surgeries. This technology would give surgeons a type of map to help them ensure that they have removed all cancerous tissue, and protect your nerves from damage during surgery. One day doctors might be able to detect cancer without the need of a biopsy, which means that cancer can be detected much more quickly.
So there you have it, just 5 of the many ways bioluminescence is helping shape our world of tomorrow. Keep your eyes open on these developments, and someday, hopefully the magic and science of bioluminescence will be a mainstay of our lives!