Five Bucks, the Road to a Cure for Cancer and Jellyfish
How could Jellyfish, the Nobel Prize, a step toward a cure for cancer and your five bucks have be connected? They converge with Douglas Prasher.
Jellyfish — Not everyone has seen a jellyfish, so I need to share my limited experiences with them.
The fist time I saw this gelatinous invertebrate was not in their natural habitat, the ocean, but on the beach on Galveston Island. After a string of tropical storms pounded the island my family drove under the still gray wagging tail-end of a near hurricane to get a look at the Gulf, churning in the aftermath of the severe weather. On the beach we found jellyfish strewn like soap bubbles across the hard, flat sand. They had been swept ashore in such great numbers it was hard to imagine a single creature of their kind was left in the sea. I was unaware they were poisonous until a beachcomber with a metal detector warned me to watch myself and my then very young son. I certainly did not know that jellies were bioluminescent — containing a glow-in-the dark protein. Then I had little inkling just how curious these delicate animals were but the scene of their death and decay left me wanting to discover more.
Two decades later I had my first in-the-water close encounter with jellies. I clearly understood that although lovely to look at, they could inflict a painful, if not deadly sting. To my coinciding amazement and horror I found myself in the center of a small mass of ping pong ball-sized, nearly invisible jellyfish being swept along parallel to the shore that I was swimming towards. I saw the first one when it bumped my face mask. Luckily I stopped my hand before it touched the delicate tentacles as I reflexively reached to brush it away.
The Nobel Prize — Last month Osamu Shimomura, Martin Chalfie and Roger Tsien were awarded the prestigious Nobel Prize and $1.4 million for their work with the jellyfish protein that glows green in the dark, offering a dandy way to tag and track cancer cells.
Jellyfish, Nobel Prize and a big stride in the search for a cure for cancer— Okay, that’s three out of four. I knew you would not forget about your five bucks but remember that Doug guy?
Not so quick … First I must inform you my son is a scientist. I know from his experience, in order for him to do his brainiac work, he must be able to eat and have a place, other than his car to live (nope, not with mom and dad.) To secure funding the poor dear has to somehow find someone who thinks it is a worthy endeavor for him to think his scientific thoughts, and be willing to pay him for dreaming up new research schemes. Okay, now about Doug.
The Road to a Cure for Cancer — Douglas Prahser is the biochemist who isolated the protein responsible for the glow in the dark talent of our crystalline sea-creature friends, the jellyfish. After his discovery, in the early 1990s, his funds ran out ,from the American Cancer Society and Mr. Prasher gave his findings to the eventual Nobel winners. The 2008 Nobel winners, Shimomura, Chalfie and Tsien publicly expressed their gratitude for Mr. Prasher’s selfless contribution to their success.
As for Prasher, in 2007, after being unemployed for a year, he took a job at Bill Penny Toyota in Huntsville as a shuttle driver. He hopes to find employment again in the scientific field. I hope he does. I suppose you do too.
Your five bucks — Surely you can make the connection, science isn’t free.