The iridescent beauty of pearl and nacre, the material found inside the shells of clams, oysters and other mollusks, would likely be impossible without two new proteins recently discovered by Japanese scientists.
The discovery could allow for the production of larger pearls in less time.
Pearl and nacre, also known as mother of pearl, have been used as decorations for millennia. In recent years, scientists have discovered the physical structure responsible for their valuable iridescence, the minerals that make up those structures, and the proteins that hold those minerals together.
What science has failed to find, however, are the proteins that actually produce pearls.
The Japanese researchers set out to find those missing proteins.
By infecting Japanese pearl oysters with an engineered virus specifically designed to reduce the amount of the newly discovered proteins, the scientists essentially stopped pearls from forming.
Although discovering the proteins responsible for producing pearls is a good start, more work needs the work can be applied-- a possibility the Japanese scientists are currently exploring.