‘An unbelievably romantic prize with beautiful colours’ [‘ett otroligt romantiskt pris med vackra färger’] — that’s how an inorganic chemist at the University of Gothenburg characterizes today’s news about the Nobel prize in chemistry.

I’m not sure I understand what he means by ‘romantic’. I would rather call it a ‘medical’ prize in disguise, like most chemical Nobel prizes these days. Because the green fluoresent protein (GFP) and other GFP-like proteins in a variety of fluorescent colours are widely used in basic and clinical medical research.

(glial cells expressing GFP among red neurons: credit: RICCARDO CASSIANI-INGONI / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY)

And the colours are beautiful indeed. They’ve been a standard illustration theme on bioscience journal covers for years now.

The press release and the excellent scientific background information material contains all that needs to be said about the importance of GFP and GFP-ish proteins at the moment (historians of contemporary biomedical sciences will undoubtedly add more later).

Just a couple of more images. First the playful signature of the Tsien lab webpage painted with different GFP and GFP-like proteins.

And then the so far best publicly known GFP art work — Eduardo Kac’s ‘GFP Bunny’ (2000). Not great art perhaps, but a creative use of one of the most displayable chemical Nobel prizes in many years.

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