Firefly Glow Tracks Stem Cells

ORLANDO – Researchers at the University of Central Florida think heart cells that glow like fireflies may provide a clue to the behavior and development of stem cells. Their three-year research project was featured last week in the new issue of the journal Stem Cells and Development.


UCF researchers took the same glow enzyme found in fireflies and inserted it into the stem cells of mice. The cells glow brighter and brighter as they differentiate into healthy heart muscle. After a few hours, they’re bright enough to be photographed by a special camera.

It’s the first time scientists have been able to track the stem cell transition.

UCF lead researcher Steven Ebert hopes one day, the knowledge will help doctors treat heart disease patients. [audio:|titles=Ebert]

But the research only looked at heart muscle in mice, not people. Ebert says it will take much more time and study before the general population could reap the benefits. [ | FPR Spot]