During Massimo Hilliard's seminar on axonal fusion, he talked about the use of kaede protein in their research. These seminars at QBI always give me a lot of new knowledge to mull over, but also the presentation are filled with stunning images that are artistically satisfying. Hilliard explained that kaede is the Japanese word for maple - this protein changes from green to red when exposed to ultra-violet light - maple leaves change from green to red in autumn.
Hilliard's laboratory is researching axonal fusion so that long-term they can discover ways to repair axonal injuries in the nervous systems. C. elegans - a 1mm roundworm, that is the only organism to have its connectome completed, is used as their research model. A new technique called axotomy allows the axon to be cut with a laser so that the axonal fusion can be observed. So far 10,000 axotomies have been performed, leading the lab to speculate that fusogens (such as EFF1) are responsible for axonal fusion.
Listening to these seminars I can't help be astounded at the detailed, microscopic, repetitive work required to develop their research. Also though I can feel the palpable excitement that the prospect of a crucial discovery gives these scientists.
The kaede protein is a photoactiveable fluorescent protein naturally originated from a stony coral, Trachyphyllia Geoffroyi.