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Genetically engineered human kidney cell shoots laser beam

Scientists have created the first 'living laser' using a human kidney cell. No cells were harmed in the experiment.

2 min read

Researchers have engineered a human kidney cell able to produce a directed green laser beam when struck by weak blue light. Don't get your spandex out just yet though -- it might be some years before you're able to shoot lasers out of your eyes.

Implanting DNA from a jellyfish into the cell, Malte Gather and Seok-Hyun Yun of Harvard University set about creating the first 'living' laser, according to the New Scientist. By altering the cell's genetic code, scientists forced the poor ickle bag of cytoplasm and organelles to produce a green fluorescent protein.

Now, we aren't experts in photonics or laser physics -- you might be surprised to discover -- but apparently this protein acts as the 'gain medium'. As the light passes through the gain medium it causes atoms within the protein to release photons, and out shoots the green light. As the cell produced light over several minutes, mirrors were used to focus the light into a direct beam of a single frequency.

If the kidney cell were scaled up to X-Men size, therefore, the superhero (the Green Kidney?) would be able to shoot green laser beams, but only if there was enough ambient light to focus. He would still have to use his natural cunning to escape from the black box Magneto would inevitably lock him in.

Right now, tissue imaging is achieved by firing external lasers at the body. With this new technique, scientists believe that they will be able to light the tissue itself. This could lead to more detailed imaging of the body, hopefully making diagnoses more accurate.

It's very early days, so no one knows when we could see this technology in practice. Scientists have expressed their interest in testing on animals, but that's a pretty big leap from a single cell. It's an even longer jump to a fully functional mutant superhero, but fingers crossed.

Experts believe this could be the next step in tissue imaging. We're more eager to out when we'll be able to pew-pew some super-powered eye lasers of utter destruction.