In a fascinating (and terrifying) turn of events, scientists from Harvard University has created the first living laser. The scientists, professor Seok-Hyun Yun and colleague Malte Gather has managed to create a biological equivalents to the gain medium, one of the main components of any laser. For the gain medium, the team used green fluorescent protein (GFP), the same protein that’s used by jellyfish to glow in the dark. After creating a genetically engineered human embryonic kidney cell to produce GFP, the team placed the cell between two mirrors and ran a beam of light through the cell that subsequently produced a visible laser beam. The beam only lasted for a few nanoseconds, but it was easily detectable and carried useful information on the properties of the cell.
The possibilities of a cell that’s able to produce laser beams are enormous. Scientists can use the technique to create cells that lase a tumor from the inside out, for example, without having to resort to invasive procedures. And you never know, we might all be retrofitted with laser eyes in the future.