26 March, 2009

Luciferase Shampoo

I just attended a departmental seminar where the guest lecturer presented data showing that transcutaneous vaccination works from DNA vaccines. Apparently, if you abrade the skin to remove the stratum corneum and rub on a transfection plasmid with your desired DNA (best to use a fusion protein, methinks) that has been stuck inside liposomes, the hair follicles will take up the DNA and use it. This apparently produces antigens inside the body and activates dendritic cells to take it up, process it, and go activate T cells to start a humoral immunity response. This has been demonstrated in mice.

Previously I had had no idea that mouse hair follicles are much smaller than human hair follicles. Nor did I know that ~80-90% of hair follicles on a human scalp are usually in growth phase at any given point. DNA vaccines have so far been shown to work best when they're applied to skin in which the hair follicles are in anagen (growth) phase. Therefore, it stands to reason that the human scalp would be a convenient portal for localized transfection.

As such, I need volunteers for 2 experiments.

1) Balding. There are demonstrated links between testosterone and alopecia. It is thought that testosterone is somehow acting upon hair follicles in middle age to cause them to somehow stop growing. But if we could make a fusion gene for the testosterone receptor coupled to nonfunctionality, we could theoretically block that signal and prevent testosterone-associated baldness at the scalp. However, in the interest of transparency, it should be acknowledged that there is a small chance that the testosterone knockout genetic construct will get into more places than just one's scalp, but also possibly other rapidly dividing cells. Other rapidly dividing cells include those in the skin and gut epithelium, where a loss of testosterone receptivity wouldn't do much, but also Sertoli cells, which could indeed cause infertility. However, as Leydig cells produce testosterone itself in response to luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone, systemic testosterone shouldn't be affected and no loss of virilization should occur.

2) Luciferase Shampoo. I don't know about you, but I think I'd look quite nice with glowing bright red hair. If adding the luciferase gene to a liposome and getting that to hair follicles could result in expression of luciferase, then great, we'd be able to get glowy hair! However, there is a very real possibility that doing this would only result in glowy hair follicles, which could still be kind of cool (light tends to shine through and off of my blonde hair, so in effect it might look like a translucent pink cloud, like fiber optics).
1. Luciferase transfection vector inside liposomes.
2. CaCl2
3. HEPES buffer
4. Glycerin (might as well make functioning shampoo whilst we're at it, no?)
5. Fragrance (anyone know how to synthesize the scent of melting lemon drops?)
But first, I need volunteers! Mad Science Law #9 may be waived if I get volunteers. Or maybe I should just get the DIY-Bio people to do this for me.


Epicanis ( http://www.bigroom.org/wordpress ) said...

The problem with the luciferin shampoo idea is that (unless my brain is more addled than I realize) it's a two-part system. Luciferin is acted upon by luciferase to make the light, so you need a constantly-renewed supply of luciferin to make it work.

You may have to settle for Green Fluorescent Protein Shampoo instead.

In which case, I'm in.

Anonymous said...

Might I suggest a shampoo with a mix of vectors for green, red, and yellow fluorescent protein. If rainbow hair is half as pretty as the brainbow mice (see Livet et al Nature 2007 PMID:3760285), I'm in.

Toaster Sunshine said...

How about luciferin hair gel?

The problem with fluorescent proteins is that they only glow when exposed to the proper wavelengths of light and degrade rapidly. I don't think it'd be wise to slather your head in Promega's Gold Antifade Reagent.