The Use of Bioluminescence

Environmental conservation is one of the main concerns of the 21st century. Researchers and scholars continuously engage in studies to discover new ways of conserving the environment. I have always been fascinated by the light-producing and glittering fireflies and how the energy they emit can be tapped, and used so as to conserve electricity. My theory is on bioluminescence, and how it can be applied so as to conserve energy and other benefits. In order to fully comprehend the benefits of bioluminescence, it is crucial for one to first understand its main purposes. In organisms, it benefits them by helping them to hunt, deterring predators, camouflage, attracting pray, and attracting a mate. My main focus is on how synthetically produced glowing bacteria can be used to benefit human beings.Bioluminescence refers to the emission and production of light by an organism that is living. The word bioluminescence is derived from a combination of two Greek words: bios which mean living and lumen which means light. Bioluminescence is a form of chemiluminescence, whereby energy is produced from a chemical reaction that is usually emitted in the form of light. This reaction can take place either outside or inside a cell, and in most instances, it involves adenosine triphosphate. Bioluminescence occurs in both marine invertebrates and vertebrates, and also in terrestrial animals and micro-organisms. Recent research has also found out that it can also occur in elephants. The trunks of some species of elephants have bacteria called bactocyclophia, under certain conditions such as labor, the trunk of a female elephant is lit up by these bacteria.Animals that utilize sight to move have a difficult time moving in the absence of light. For instance, owls have large eyes that enable them to collect light and also use other senses to collect information about their environment. On the other hand, human beings have to rely on artificial and portable sources of light such as LEDs, light bulbs, and torches. However, bioluminescent organisms manufacture their own light and store it in their bodies. Most organisms utilize the light they generate in a similar way to how people use searchlights or flashlights. Light bulbs produce light through a process called incandescence whereby the filament in a bulb heats up and produces some light. This process is inefficient because in producing light, enormous amount of heat is used, and this results in the waste of massive amounts of energy.On the other hand, glowing organisms such as fireflies produce light through a process of luminescence. In such organisms, chemical compounds are combined to emit light similar to how substances are mixed in a light stick to emit light. Therefore, luminescence is far much better as compared to incandescence. This process neither generates nor requires much heat, and this is why it has come to be referred to as cold light. My idea is based on how this form of energy can be generated in a large or small scale, and how it can be used to save electricity.

For over 2500 years, scientists have had the basic idea on the difference between luminescence and incandescence. Scientists began to investigate how animals generate their own light in the 1600s. However, as different animals utilize different substances in this process, researchers still do not understand exactly how each bioluminescent organism generates light. In some instances, scientists have not been able to find out how the organisms switch the light on and off, or why the produce the light. In addition, bioluminescence can be tasking to study because many organisms drain their ability to emit light when they are captured. In some instances, when the organism is captured its light-producing organs are destroyed.Bioluminescence entails the mixing together of two main substances in order to produce light. One chemical is the light producing substance Luciferin, which is a photoprotein, and the other substance is Luciferase, which is the enzyme responsible for catalyzing a reaction. The light making process needs an ion that is charged so as to trigger the light generating reaction. In addition, other chemical, mechanical, and neurological triggers in the body of the organism combine to produce light. The light making process also needs certain substances such as adenosine triphosphate and oxygen to be present. Adenosine Triphosphate is a molecule that is responsible for transporting and storing energy in a majority of the living animals, including human beings. The reaction involving luciferase and luciferin results in the production of water and oxyluciferin. The biological process that is used in the production of bioluminescence is almost similar for organisms living in water and those on land. Even though, both aquatic and terrestrial bioluminescent creatures use luciferase and luciferin to emit light, the structure of luciferase and luciferin are different in different organisms. These organisms produce different colors of light due to the chemical difference in their luciferase and luciferin. The color of light emitted is dependent on whether the organism is either aquatic or terrestrial. For instance, terrestrial organisms such as railroad worms and fireflies emit a green, yellow, or red light. On the other hand, aquatic creatures produce a green or blue-green light.From the study of these natural processes, scientists have come up with a way of making a glow in the dark bacteria. This bacterium is produced in the laboratory by introducing bioluminescence genes into a bacterium called E. coli. This procedure involves a process of genetic engineering, whereby the genetic information of an organism is manipulated by eliminating, or introducing a particular gene. In the process of making a glow in the dark bacteria, the bacterial cells are made competent, and thereafter a plasmid DNA is introduced through transformation. One plasmid that can be introduced is the plux plasmid which has the lux genes that are gotten from marine bacteria. These marine bacteria live symbiotically in a Hawaiian squid and produce light. The lux genes produce the bioluminescence that is found in the marine bacteria.

The production of massive amounts of the bacteria can be applied in low-cost advertising. When the harmless and unique bacteria are placed on a surface, they have the ability to light up this surface. This can be used as a marketing tool instead of neon lights and will save a lot of electricity. Advertisers can create installations on floors and walls either outside or inside a building so as to illuminate the message of a customer. These bacteria produce a glow that is natural, and there are no chemicals that are used in producing the florescent effect. The glow from these bacteria usually lasts from a day to nearly a week. Depending on the specific requirements of the customer designs can be produced to satisfy what the customer wants. The designs can be made on Petri-dishes or the glow in the dark bacteria can be made as a writable gel, which will be applied on surfaces outside or indoors.In saving electricity, the bacteria can also be used on glowing trees and especially on the highways, and this will save the government a lot of money in terms of electricity bills. In addition, Glow in the dark bacteria can also be used to light up Christmas trees without the need for electricity, and this will reduce the risks of electric fires.The other use where bioluminescence can be applied is in the medical field. When the bioluminescent gene is inserted into bacteria, it makes them glow. In a research conducted by virologists, they used bioluminescent bacteria to trace the advancement of infection in a mouse. The virologists were able to observe an infection spreading and were be able to identify areas where the antibiotics are more effective by spotting where there is a decrease of bacteria. In the future, bioluminescence could be used to track the spread of HIV in the body of a human being by making the cells which are infected to glow when they are infected. Technological advancements could use the bioluminescence to identify body cells that are affected by cancer and this will enable the surgeons to know where to cut. By using luciferin from fireflies, biologists can also be able to establish the quantity of Adenine triphosphate in bacterial, animal and plant cells. ATP indicates the amount of energy stored in such cells, which is proportional to the number of cells that are present. In addition, bioluminescence could be used to indicate the level of toxicity in the cells because the harmful substances that are present in the cell will reduce the glow when the bacteria are killed.Bioluminescence also has the potential of being used in hygiene technology. It can be used to monitor the efficiency of sanitizing and cleaning procedures in the beverage and food industry. Hygiene technology measures the amount of ATP that is present in an organism's cells and this makes it an appropriate biomarker of organic and microbial contaminants. The amount present on a surface can be assayed and extracted to determine the level of contamination of a surface. The amount of microbial sources of contamination present on a surface will be detected, and this will be useful in maintaining the hygiene of such a surface. In addition, new methods of identifying the amount of bacterial contamination of foods such as meat and dairy products can be developed.Traditionally, bioluminescence has been applied in the hygiene of food and beverage industries. A new application of bioluminescence is that, it can be used in monitoring the level of hygiene in the environment of a clean room. It can be used to monitor the cleanliness of samples, water, contact surfaces, and personal hygiene in a clean room. Clean rooms are used in the assembly and manufacture of spacecraft components, pharmaceuticals, medical instrumentation, nanotechnology research, and microelectronics. A clean room should be controlled and constructed under strictly controlled conditions of temperature, humidity, and air quality. The contamination of these rooms can be reduced through have proper air pressure measures and through air filtration so as to reduce the level of airborne and aerosolized contaminants in the room. This will reduce the environmental contaminants from biological, organic, and inorganic residues. Bioluminescence will provide a more sensitive, rapid, broader, and objective method of measuring the microbial contamination, and the level of organic contaminants in a clean room.It is evident from this discussion that the idea of bioluminescence can be applied in a number of new ways. By studying how organisms produce light on their own, scientists have been able to create synthetic bacteria that can emit light. These bacteria can be used for a number of new purposes as illustrated in this essay. Nevertheless, the efforts that have been put in producing massive quantities of these synthetic bacteria have been minimal. If applied, these new uses of bioluminescence have the potential to save cost, preserve the environment, and improve the health of human beings.

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