Science: Body: Skin: Glow
Human Bioluminescence   (+76, -11)  [vote for, against]
Gene thearpy for glowing skin fashions

Wouldn't it be cool to be able to control the glow of different parts of your skin? Use gene therapy to do either continuous glowing (ala deep sea creatures) or transient bright flashing (ala fireflies). Get glowing patterns like tattoos or a grid of consciously controlled cells to make your own dynamic pictures (after extensive training, of course).
-- amadeus, Jul 07 2000

[eagle, Jul 07 2000, last modified Oct 21 2004]

Bunny Hop and Glow
"Eduardo Kac has held the pet of the future in his arms, and it is Alba, a white bunny that glows in the dark" -globe [jutta, Jul 07 2000, last modified Oct 21 2004]

(?) Bioluminescent deer
(Don't ask) [angel, Nov 05 2004]

I bet any tattoo artist could do it.
-- mika_ranta, Jul 07 2000

The best would be patterns that are permanently and invisibly etched into the skin. They would only glow after being massaged with a special substance, or after the individual ingests a reactive drug. That way glow-freaks and ravers could luminesce at will and hide their lifestyle otherwise.
-- naveline, Jul 10 2000

It's a good idea. A bit on the weird side and I doubt any tattoo artist could do it, but nevertheless, a good idea.
-- verobay, Jul 11 2000

I've seen some interesting things done with tattoos using UV reactive ink. A guy I know had a star field tatooed on his forearm that was invisible until lit by a black light, after which it would glow for a brief time. After doing some research on this, I found that most of the chemicals available to do this are rather toxic, and come to think of it, I haven't seen that guy in a couple of years...

Still, provided that we could develop a non-toxic UV luminescent ink, I'd go for it. The guy's arm looked profoundly cool. I'd probably get the word FNORD tatooed across my forehead...

That's another idea... for an alternative to various criminal punishments, tatoo a UV reactive marker on people...

Naah, I'd just end up tatooing FASHION VICTIM across too many people's foreheads if this became readily available.
-- Cglenn, Aug 11 2000

I still want one of the firefly/tobacco plant crosses...
-- StarChaser, Aug 24 2000

Great idea!! That way we could not only do really terrific E.T. impressions, we also wouldn't need to buy those glow sticks at Halloween! And guys, imagine how cool our, uh, "units" could look!
-- AfroAssault, Sep 14 2000

Use the prolume stuff would be totally awesome. All you need is to implant the luciferase into the body somehow so that it would stay (eg by making special bodies that produce/contain it in cells?) then have some way to control the release of luciferine in order to make it glow (firefly-esque). Could have cool patterns all over the body, that you could make glow at will. :)
-- amadeus, Sep 22 2000

semi-baked apparently someone altered the genes of a rabbit with genes from a jellyfish, the rabbit doesnt glow in the dark but does glow under UV/blacklights. Dunno where i saw it but i'll link it if i remember. Its a way cool idea though, how about if you combined this with the "justify my love" bra, or lust detecting clothes (both here on halfbakery) so your colour would reflect your moods or bodytemperature as well.
-- wrenchndmachine, Sep 22 2000

I remember having an idea something like this ages ago, after reading about those plankton that glow in the dark.. Glowing skin pigments.. cool.
-- Brog, Nov 01 2000

Interestingly enough... Humans are slightly bioluminecent naturally. Not noticable, though. Usually. There are actually instances where people have had enough of the pigments to show up under special lighting (a.k.a. black lights). Some sort of mutation. Also, certain fungi are as well. It sounds gross, but if they could be cultivated in patterns on one's skin.....
-- Malakh, Dec 30 2000

One problem with bioluminiscence is that you'd never be able to do any photographic work. On a related note: in the game Enchanter (now sold as part of the Lost Treasures of Infocom collection) the one command which one can give at the start of the game that makes it unwinnable is "frotz me". This causes the player to be self-luminescent permanently which makes it impossible to find a scroll hidden behind a candle-lit painting (which is only visible in complete darkness).
-- supercat, Dec 30 2000

Good idea, it would be handy chatting up girls, you could display the words "buy me a drink" on your forehead in flashing letters. Top stuff.
-- MrWasp, Jan 02 2001

You could have a cross between this and thermo chromic cookware. Your forehead glows with the word "sick" when your temp rises to, say, 100ºF, and above that it could read, "Very Sick."
-- bristolz, Jan 10 2001

And if it drops below 80, it could say 'Dead'.
-- StarChaser, Jan 11 2001

And if it fluctuates between 95 & 100 in less than 5 minutes it would say "Warning!! I'm P.M.S.-ing!".
-- login, Jan 30 2001

i think it would be great if we could create a telepathic reaction to the bioluminescence chemical i such a way that if you were lying in bed with your lover and,say, you wanted him/her to rub you ina certain spot, you'd only have to think about that part of your body, and it would light up thus making your partner aware of your desires. i think it's a fabulous idea.
-- celizafinn, Aug 17 2001

Why not just drink radioactive liquid?
-- DaveSt, Aug 25 2001

You first.
-- jutta, Aug 30 2001

No, after you..
-- DaveSt, Sep 02 2001

hmmm... tell you what - you send me some plutonium and then I can complete my plans for world domination... I mean drink some of it in a glowing experiment...
-- RobertKidney, Sep 02 2001

I have read about this actually occuring. It's in the book "Biological Anomalies: Human" by William Corliss. I'll look it up next time I'm at home but for now I'll claim a tentative "baked"
-- dare99, Mar 10 2002

Maybe, they can cross the lighting gene with some harmless microorganism that can live on human skin for a short period of time. Basically, you just rub it on and your skin will glow for one or two days before the bacterias naturally die.
-- bing, Mar 12 2002

There is luminescent algae which does this. Covering yourself in this would achieve the desired effect. It may also poison you- be warned.
-- brewmaster, Mar 13 2002

The tactical implications are not good. In a night fight you'd give your position away, making yourself and squadmates a very nice target for the enemy.
-- Aspera, Mar 28 2002

The bad points about this (not being able to develop your photographs, being visible in combat) could be temporarily solved with some dark, opaque cream. Kinda like Rudolph's make-shift nose cover.
-- meow, Apr 08 2002

You'd be like a big flashlight, great when you drop your keys at night
-- ishotpac, Apr 09 2002

Cool idea. It would be great for professionals who don't want the tattoo visible during the day but only at night.
-- heatherbell, Aug 12 2002

By 'black light' do people mean ultra-violet?

As a geneticist I'm happy to report that the idea is at least half-baked. Scientists often use a gene from a jellyfish known as gfp after its product, green fluorescent protein. Fluoresces under UV. Someone in my lab is using it to look at protein localisation inside bacteria. Mutants of it exist which fluorese at different wavelengths - red and yellow.

Alternatively, one could use proteins which actively produce light using ATP as fuel (this what cells use for energy in many reactions so it is already present). Then you could glow without the external light-source. However this obviously requires energy so you'd require more calories per day. (A negligable amount - so can help slimmers only as part of a calorie controlled diet.)

The main practical difficulty is getting the gene into enough cells to produce sufficient light. One method is to genetically engineer a retrovirus to take out the virus genes and put in the ones you want. Currently under research for various diseases. The virus could I imagine be easily incorporated into the tattooing substance. I suppose the recipient would have to sign a waiver against unintended consequences.

On the plus side you could claim to be a GMO.

Unfortunately, I don't think control of the light emission would be possible in the near future. In the distant future, it may well be that people could receive and control the tiny organs which octopi use to change colour. Which would be great fun.

For people worrying about the military implications I have a counter-example. Soldiers could disguise themselves as road-signs.
-- Loris, Aug 12 2002

Baked! Read Tad Williams "Otherland" - bioluminescent tatoos are all the rage with near-future drug users. And it's a good book too
-- Dissolving, Feb 07 2003

I want this so bad. I've got some images I think it would be really cool to have glowing on my skin. Really cool. You've got the whole damn stock of croissants, every one the bakery has! But wait--one, I'd like it to be visible in daylight as well; two, why couldn't you just use glow-in-the-dark pigment when getting a tat? Y'know, the kind you use to paint stars on your bedroom ceiling.
-- Eugene, Feb 09 2003

This topic really has got me thinking. Just imagine if you find yourself (heavens forbid! :) ) in a bar and you can sense that the guy at the next table is about to kick off. Imagine the ability to make your teeth and eyes glow dark red! Knuckles a deep blue maybe. Perhaps projecting a red dot onto the dude's forehead like a SWAT laser. Funksome. Maybe he'd think twice about spilling your pint.

Other scenarios: * Duracell would go out of business overnight since nobody needs flashlight batteries anymore * The army would do away with its camoflage uniform since you will be able to blend in with any surrounding. The thought of thousands of big naked men carrying machine guns around the countryside is not a pleasant one (not for me anyway, but each to his own I say). * A human highly trained in the modulation of subdermal luminescence may be able to project laser-like beams of light (maybe even blue laser!) from a certain tubular protuberance (ahem). Although hopefully not prematurely :).
-- wossy, Feb 10 2003

I can see safety scenarios as well. I bet when your adenaline is up you'd glow brighter. Lifeguards could just look for brightly flashing people to rescue.
-- Worldgineer, Feb 10 2003

Why not micro-encapsulate the dye, so its not quite so so-dangerous-your-arms-going-to-fall-off-then-you-will-die-slowly
-- miasere, Mar 26 2003

"honey, your junk is glowing"

"i swear, it's not contageous"

the glowing reproductive organs could also put a stop to one night stands, and possibly the rise in teen pregnancy.
-- UnseenHxC, Jul 16 2003

Yes, and as for the glow-in-the-dark condom business: right out the window. I'm surprised no one has mentioned (did I skim too quik again?) the guy who made those glowing mice using jellyfish genes in Hawaii. Mice, as we Dr. Frankensteins-in-Our-Own-Minds all know, are, for genetic purposes, people like you and me. That parents can be endlessly cruel before the fact of their parenthood as well as endlessly kind to make up for it afterwards, is sometimes true, so the creation of people who bioluminate--whether they want to or not--is probably inevitable. (Hey, honey, let's give our kid the advantage of...light!) I think what we're actually discussing here is the impending creation of a whole new flavor of people (for everybody to prejudicially hate)...
-- cloudface, Aug 12 2003

Useful for getting a glass of water at night.
-- Eugene, Dec 27 2003

Yesss.... cross this luminescence with the chromaphors of the squid and surriptitiously spray it onto your enemies with the skin absorbant DMSO: their every feeling and intention would be readable, in something like neon, across their foreheads.
-- GnoLackawitz, Dec 28 2003

-- nomadic_wonderer, Jan 29 2004

Keep in mind, nomadic, that this idea is 3 1/2 years old. It predates the "no genetic magic" rule of thumb. (WTAGIPBAN)
-- krelnik, Jan 29 2004

[krelnik] an idea should have a faint bearing on reality. I know you guys will hate me for this, but I had to say it. now I am ready to be ostracized.
-- nomadic_wonderer, Jan 29 2004

I just find it sad that genetic engineering would be "taboo" on an idea site -- though I'll grant you that growing spare chicken legs is silly. When they figure a way to elongate telomerese chains -- or whatever -- I wonder how many here would refuse treatments.

It seems like an uncalled for "holier then thou" attitude.
-- theircompetitor, Jan 29 2004

No, it's just a rule of thumb. The reason for it is that usually people use GM in ways it just can't be used, effectively using it like magic. There have been many GM, piezoelectric, and GPS ideas that have been well recieved and this usually grows from the author having some knowledge of how these technologies can be used.

The mind control of glow intensity in this idea is a good example of the impossible (ok, maybe just highly improbable) way that people tend to treat GM and would these days be more often fishboned.
-- Worldgineer, Jan 29 2004

sure -- but a there's a bit of a semantic difference between rule of thumb and taboo. I would be concerned that it means that those submitting ideas in these categories are presumptively fishboned. See Klaatu's sentiments in "Real Ideas that should have been halfbaked".
-- theircompetitor, Jan 29 2004

We are just a collection of independant minds here. I'd like to think I wouldn't fishbone such ideas if they have merit. If others do, that's their right. Absorbing criticism and praise and knowing which is valuable is a worthy skill and one that can get much practice while visiting this site.
-- Worldgineer, Jan 29 2004

//and one that can get much practice while visiting this site.//

don't I know it :)
-- theircompetitor, Jan 29 2004

[theircompetitor] I agree with you. I guess I was just being a dick. Look the idea per se is not bad but i find so many fantasy based ideas that it sometimes unnerves me. Aircut, lunch before boarding... these are practical and workable ideas and they dont depend too much on the abilities of science (which at best are suspect). hey, but like you said each person has his opinion. and I respect that. hecks thats the best part of this forum. Dr. Curry bombs every idea of mine.. but i know for a fact that he does this with an objective point of view... and he has some excellent comments!
-- nomadic_wonderer, Jan 29 2004

As a side thought, drop the virus/bacteria/parasite behind enemy lines, how are they going to hide if they're glowing bright green? hehehehehe...
-- thelambs, Jan 29 2004

I've managed to bake this in a rather undesirable way; some years ago I had my arms really badly sunburnt (so some of the hairs were fell out) and now the skin doesn't shed properly if it gets tanned (I get patches of tanned skin remaining after it's shed around them). Ergo, patches of dead skin build up on my arms which fluoresce green under UV light; no GM required. Fortunately if I slap some E45 cream on the dead skin all flays off the day after as a sort of arm dandruff. Gross, but novel.
-- squigbobble, Feb 05 2004

Actually, simply putting a gene coding for luciferase into skin cells would be relatively easy; it wouldn't even have to enter the nucleus -- you could create an RNA sequnce coding for the protein (kudos to he who posts the recipe for it) and insert it into emasculated viruses, which could be injected or applied to the skin with microneedle patches cut to the shape you want. Yep -- tattoos applied like stickers. These viruses would inject the mRNA, which is then turned into proteins, which makes light - without possibly being passed on to the next generation.

This is very possible. And if you also write the RNA for a protein that responds to... say, adrenaline, or other hormones that usually accompany a particular emotion, mood lighting is well within the realm of possibility.
-- Chrontius, Nov 05 2004

I would love a glow in the dark tattoo!
-- brodie, Nov 05 2004

This is still a good idea. You make me glow, baby. +
-- k_sra, Nov 05 2004

WIBNI - marked for deletion [-]
-- quantum_flux, Nov 03 2007

Hardly a WIBNI - we have glow-in-the-dark rabbits, etc., so we know which genes to use. And gene therapy has almost stopped killing the people it's tried on, so that is clearly something we can use in the near future.
-- DrCurry, Jan 18 2008

random, halfbakery