From man-made toxic chemicals such as industrial by-products to poisons that occur naturally, a water or food supply can be easily contaminated. And for every level of toxic material ingested, there is some level of bodily response, ranging from minor illness to painful certain death.
Biosensors have long been used to safeguard against exposure to toxic chemicals. Food tasters employed by the ancients acted as early versions of biosensors, determining if a meal had been poisoned. More modern examples include the use of fish, which may alter their swimming characteristics if a toxic material is introduced into to the water. But although current warning systems are more sophisticated, they require equipment and time that a soldier in the field or an adventurer in the wilderness do not have.
Now Prof. Yosi Shacham-Diamand, Vice Dean of Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Engineering, along with Prof. Shimshon Belkin of the Institute of Life Sciences at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has married biology and engineering to produce a biosensor device called the "Dip Chip," which detects toxicity quickly and accurately, generating low false positive and false negative readings. The Dip Chip contains microbes designed to exhibit a biological reaction to toxic chemicals, emulating the biological responses of humans or animals.
Converting biological response to electricity
The biological reaction is converted into an electronic signal that can be read by the user. When perfected for commercial applications, the chip might be easily plugged into a mobile device to determine toxicity, says Prof. Shacham-Diamand.
The new chips are based on genetically modified microbes developed in Prof. Belkin's lab. When the modified microbes are exposed to toxic or poisonous materials, they produce a measurable biochemical reaction and this is where Prof. Shacham-Diamand's work begins.
"In my lab, we developed a method for
|Contact: George Hunka|
American Friends of Tel Aviv University