In Depth

Jellyfish Juniors Make History


Staff Bug

In early March, high school biology teacher Monica Ventrice and her 11th grade students dissected four Aequorea victoria jellyfish specimens for a long-term research project. Aequorea jellyfish have bioluminescent properties, which means that they glow in the dark. Ventrice and a group of students extracted the bioluminescent proteins from these jellyfish and stored them for later use. After much deliberation of which organism to test their theory on, they decided to use the students themselves in an effort to make scientific history. Their goal: to create four bioluminescent human beings. 

Due to the very particular conditions required for the proteins to survive in a human host, the select students were put through a rigorous two-week boot camp to prepare their bodies for the injection. This included many physical challenges as well as a regulated diet. 

“The students had to adopt a fully keto diet and work on building their glute muscles,” Ventrice said. 

This specific work on the gluteus maximus was vital, since the proteins needed to be injected in the lower back right above those muscles. The protein is more likely to succeed and thrive if the muscles are toned. Once injected, two of the students saw results within 24 hours; their lower back and upper thighs began to glow. Within the predicted 48-hour time period, they were both fully bioluminescent. The other students had a bit of a delay, but it is believed to have been for dietary reasons. 

“We caught those students sneaking snack pretzels and soda during the boot camp. This dietary disturbance is most likely the cause of their delay,” Ventrice said.

In the end, Ventrice and those four selected students – Sydney deLora, Sam Kavich, Martin Yao, and Hudson deGroff – made scientific history and even received a letter from a famous biologist who studies bioluminescence, Edith Widder, commending their work.