In recent years scientists have exploited the light-generating capability of luciferase in applications ranging from apoptosis detection to DNA quantitation. Now Alameda, Calif.-based Xenogen has taken this useful enzyme one step further, with a luciferase-based system for studying infectious diseases, cancer, and metabolic diseases in living animals in real time.

Xenogen has developed Bioware™ animal models, in which pathogens, target genes, or tumor cells are tagged with luciferase, which emits light when the pathogen or gene is present or cells are growing. The company also offers LPTA™ transgenic animals modified with gene-specific luciferase reporters that permit gene expression tracking throughout the animal's growth and development. "When the genes are expressed or when the pathogen or the tumor cell is present, or growing in the body of an animal," says Pam Contag, Xenogen's president, "we can actually image that across the whole body of the animal with spatial resolution, over...

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