A newly discovered bright red "reporter protein" called Katushka is set to fill in a crucial gap in advanced imaging technologies:
Katushka solves a major problem in the field of fluorescent reporter proteins. Fluorescent proteins have become invaluable research tools for labeling specific genes and tissues. This labeling permits researchers to follow gene activity visually or to track cellular development. However, there is no tracer that glows brightly in a particular "window" of the far-red spectrum favorable for maximally penetrating living tissues. Thus, such proteins were not practical for optically imaging tagged genes, cells or tissues in whole animals.
Katushka apparently solves this problem. But the interesting thing for the lay reader is how Katushka was developed in the first place:
The development of the red fluorescent protein . . . reported by Howard Hughes Medical Institute international research scholars Andrey Zaraisky, Sergey A. Lukyanov, and their colleagues August 26, 2007, in the online version of Nature Methods. . . might never have happened had it not been for the shrewd bargaining of Lukyanov. Visiting a Moscow pet shop, Lukyanov saw a brilliant red sea anemone among the denizens of the store's aquarium. Sensing that the vivid red coloring in the anemone might provide the blueprint for a new biological tracer, he tried to buy the anemone. He was told by the shopkeeper that it had already been sold, and the buyer was expected shortly. Unfazed, Lukyanov persistently outbid the buyer and procured the creature.
Back in Lukyanov's laboratory, Chudakov and his coworkers isolated the red protein from the anemone and then developed an enhanced version . . . .