Drs. Martin Chalfie, Roger Y. Tsien, and Osamu Shimomura were the recipients.
The 2008 Nobel Prize in chemistry went to three researchers who discovered the fluorescent protein GFP in jellyfish and developed it into a tool for observing previously invisible processes. Martin Chalfie, Ph.D., of Columbia University, Roger Y. Tsien, Ph.D., of the University of California at San Diego, and Osamu Shimomura, Ph.D., of the Marine Biology Laboratory in Woods Hole, MA, won the prize.
By using DNA technology, researchers can now connect GFP to other interesting but otherwise invisible proteins. This glowing marker allows them to watch the movements, positions, and interactions of the targeted proteins in processes like the development of nerve cells in the brain or how cancer cells spread.
Dr. Shimomura first isolated GFP from the jellyfish Aequorea victoria, which drifts with the currents off the west coast of North America. He discovered that this protein glowed bright green under ultraviolet light.
Dr. Chalfie demonstrated the value of GFP as a luminous genetic tag for various biological phenomena. In one of his first experiments, he colored six individual cells in C. elegans with the aid of GFP.
Dr. Tsien contributed to the general understanding of how GFP fluoresces. He also extended the color palette beyond green allowing researchers to give various proteins and cells different colors. This enables scientists to follow several different biological processes at the same time.