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What diagnostic applications, if any, are there in using bioluminescence to detect cancer or tumors (in vivo)?

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closed as too broad by WYSIWYG, AliceD, Chris, fileunderwater, Nandor Poka Mar 25 '15 at 14:33

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  • $\begingroup$ Could you elaborate on your intenstions? E.g. are you talking in vivo labeling (patients) or in vitro (cell cultures). $\endgroup$ – AliceD Mar 25 '15 at 3:08
  • $\begingroup$ A list of all possible applications would make a very long textbook. If you could narrow that down to just diagnostic applications for example, that would help greatly. $\endgroup$ – Resonating Mar 25 '15 at 16:39
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Not in human but you can use this technique with genetically modified model organisms as described here.

The procedure is quite simple, you express the luciferase enzyme under the control of a specific promoter (specific for your cell type, like cancer) and provide luciferin via intravascular or intraperitoneal injection. The targeted cell type (for example cancer) will light up.

If you want to use that as a diagnostic tool in human you can't as the organism must express an enzyme catalyzing a bioluminescent reaction. Actually with the advance of genome engineering tools you might be able to do that even in humans (e.g. using CRISP/Cas9).

What is the advantage of bioluminescence over fluorescence? I might be wrong but I don't think there are any. I would rather express a fluorophore rather than an enzyme that requires a substrat.

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    $\begingroup$ What would a cancer specific promoter be? You could target a particular cell type, but how would you distinguish between tumorous and healthy? They have the same promoters. You could, perhaps, use promoters that are only active in proliferating cells but that limits the usefulness of the approach. More importantly, how would you detect the bioluminescence in, say, the liver? $\endgroup$ – terdon Mar 25 '15 at 12:40
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    $\begingroup$ @terdon several exist. See this list for example. I agree you can't detect bioluminescence of internal organs but strictly speaking you can use bioluminescence to detect (some type of) cancer cells which was the question (can it be used?). I also don't think bioluminescence is a great detection tool but this would be my opinion and not actual facts. $\endgroup$ – cagliari2005 Mar 25 '15 at 13:03
  • $\begingroup$ Huh, I stand corrected, thanks. I didn't know there were tumor-specific promoters. $\endgroup$ – terdon Mar 25 '15 at 13:07
  • $\begingroup$ @terdon, well you are not completely wrong :) Some promoters are more/less express (which give them the "specific" tag) in tumors than normal cells but there are, as far as I know, no promoters totally OFF in normal cell and totally ON in tumor cell or vice-versa. Still that should be sufficient to apply that technique. $\endgroup$ – cagliari2005 Mar 25 '15 at 13:10
  • $\begingroup$ Ah OK, that makes more sense. I was having trouble imagining how a promoter could be completely specific to tumor cells. $\endgroup$ – terdon Mar 25 '15 at 13:11
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In vivo, none.

Bioluminescence is cool, but it's not a powerful light source. Even if you could tag a cancer cell (all of them), unless it were on your skin or in your eye, you wouldn't be able to see it, even with some kind of scope.

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  • $\begingroup$ Wrong you actually can. $\endgroup$ – cagliari2005 Mar 25 '15 at 5:56
  • $\begingroup$ @cagliari2005 Can you then elaborate your comment? $\endgroup$ – Chris Mar 25 '15 at 5:59
  • $\begingroup$ @chris writing an answer right now $\endgroup$ – cagliari2005 Mar 25 '15 at 6:00
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Bioluminescence could not be used but it is possible to 'tag' with fluorescence to better view pathways within the body. Tagging is often used in research, a simple google search should produce a plethora of results.

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