GULO gene

A friend, @jrslagle introduced me to this gene called gulo. Most animals have the ability to produce their own vitamin C, but primates have lost that ability and must rely on finding vitamin C in food. Vitamin C production used to occur in the liver. Related Wikipedia entry:

My friend points out "the biggest benefit to vitamin c related to longevity is it acts as an antioxidant, so it keeps oxidative stress low. Oxidative stress is one of the causes of protein damage and also an outcome of chronic inflammation which itself is a culprit in many degenerative diseases."

While looking into this more on the internets, I ran across this: where it is suggested that the gene can be activated by exposure to an "invasive red light". WTF? Is it that easy? Accessing the liver is pretty simple. Maybe I can just open myself up and apply the light to the liver? Sure, I guess I could just shine the light in my mouth, but it might not be as rewarding.

Anyhow, if anyone has any expertise on how this light thing works, please post some info. This could be cool.


  • You could eat the light. I have no idea what I'm talking about, but I thought I'd throw that out there. 
  • Disclaimer: My knowledge of cellular biology is fairly hit and miss, so it's entirely possible that I'm missing something from the paper.

    It looks to me like the experiment described is talking about attaching a red-light sensitive protein to the GULO gene, introducing the gene into an organism, and THEN using red light to activate it.  Just shining a red light on your liver wouldn't do much unless you already had that protein-and-gene pair already -- which is fairly unlikely, since it looks like it's an artificial mechanism that they put together.  You'd need to synthesize your own BioBrick, and figure out some sort of vector to introduce it into your system.
  • *facepalm*

    let's pretend I never mentioned the light. Serves my right for skimming the article.
  • Apparently the GULO gene in humans is damaged, and not simply "off".
  • So can we fix the existing copy, or should we just put in a new one that actually works?
  • My gut tells me that just putting the new gene in would be easier than trying to fix the one we already have.
  • Only that splicing new stuff into our genome isn't that easy since every attempt can disrupt existing genes...
    Also the genes we have are already included in a huge number of networks and highly regulated. If you bring something new in there is even less telling what will happen.
  • The safest way to go about this would be to introduce the plasmid containing GULO into the nucleus of the cell without having it integrated into the chromosomes. That way we aren't interrupting any existing code.  

  • I once had the idea of introducing artificial organelles of some sorts into cells, some sort of second nucleus if you will. That would be something in the direction of chloroplasts or mitochondrias (is that the correct plural??).
    That idea was for a fictional story though...
    But it might work,given you figure out how to sneak around the immune system.
  • Well either way, we have a lot of grandmas available for trial and error tests.
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