Navigation Links
Living sensor can warn of arsenic pollution

Scientists studying arsenic pollution have discovered a living sensor that can spot contamination. They have also discovered new bacteria that can clean up arsenic spills even in previously untreatable cold areas, microbiologists heard today (Monday 8 September 2008) at the Society for General Microbiology's Autumn meeting being held this week at Trinity College, Dublin.

The Giant Mine in Canada is in the sub-arctic. It contains over 230,000 tonnes of arsenic-containing dust, making it one of the most polluted places on Earth as well as one of the most inhospitable.

"Water seeps through the mine cracks carrying the arsenic with it as it drips down the walls," said Thomas Osborne from University College London, UK. "We discovered new types of bacteria living in biofilms on the walls of Giant Mine that consume arsenic compounds contained in the polluted water seeping through."

Arsenic is toxic to all living cells, and in people causes fatal cancers of the lung, liver, kidney and bladder. It also causes cirrhosis and gangrene, and on a wider scale seriously damages wildlife in fragile environments. Arsenic contamination is a global problem, with some countries including Vietnam, West Bengal, Mexico, Canada, Argentina, Bangladesh and USA all severely affected.

"Until now, no bacteria have ever been isolated that can thrive in cold temperatures and deal with arsenic contamination. The new bacteria we discovered function at temperatures from 20oC down as low as 4oC," said Thomas Osborne. "These bacteria also live in a community called a biofilm, which means that we can build them into a new system to clean up contaminated areas by removing the arsenic from soil or drinking water, even in the cold far north and south, or in winter".

"The other exciting possibility that this opens up is that we can isolate the enzyme from these new strains of bacteria and develop an arsenic biosensor to use in cold environments. This will warn when traces of arsenic are escaping from areas like mine workings, industrial chemical facilities, or even laboratories, alerting us before pollution manages to get into watercourses or drinking water supplies. We could also use it to test newly drilled wells in countries like Bangladesh where water supplies are known to be contaminated," said Thomas Osborne.

Many organisms, including all plants and animals, ultimately get their energy from the sun via photosynthesis. But over the last few decades scientists have discovered more and more microbes that can get their energy directly from breaking down chemical bonds. This enables them to survive in extraordinary and dark environments such as deep inside the Earth or at the bottom of the coldest, deepest oceans, where previously no life was expected to exist at all.


Contact: Lucy Goodchild
Society for General Microbiology

Related biology news :

1. MIT creates 3-D images of living cell
2. Clemson scientists shed light on molecules in living cells
3. Living fossils have hot sex
4. Studying component parts of living cells with carbon nanotube cellular probes
5. Living with lions
6. Burrowing mammals dig for a living, but how do they do that?
7. Researchers examine closest living relative to primates
8. New technology illuminates protein interactions in living cells
9. New technique captures chemical reactions in a single living cell at unprecedented resolution
10. Captive carnivores not up to wild living
11. Stanford researchers say living corals thousands of years old hold clues to past climate changes
Post Your Comments:
(Date:3/30/2017)... LOS ANGELES , March 30, 2017  On ... Hack the Genome hackathon at ... This exciting two-day competition will focus on developing health ... experience. Hack the Genome is ... has been tremendous. The world,s largest companies in the ...
(Date:3/29/2017)... -- higi, the health IT company that operates the largest ... , today announced a Series B investment from BlueCross ... new investment and acquisition accelerates higi,s strategy to create ... health activities through the collection and workflow integration of ... and secures data today on behalf of over 36 ...
(Date:3/24/2017)... March 24, 2017 The Controller General of Immigration ... Abdulla Algeen have received the prestigious international IAIR Award for ... Continue Reading ... ... Deputy Controller Abdulla Algeen (small picture on the right) have received the ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:10/11/2017)... ... ... wash is a basic first aid supply for any work environment, but most personal eye ... first if a dangerous substance enters both eyes? It’s one less decision, and likely quicker ... eye piece. , “Whether its dirt and debris, or an acid or alkali, getting anything ...
(Date:10/11/2017)... ROTTERDAM, the Netherlands and LAGUNA HILLS, ... that The Institute of Cancer Research, London ... will use MMprofiler™ with SKY92, SkylineDx,s prognostic tool to risk-stratify ... high-risk trial known as MUK nine . The University ... this trial, which is partly funded by Myeloma UK, and ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... (PRWEB) , ... October 10, 2017 , ... San Diego-based ... of its corporate rebranding initiative announced today. The bold new look is part ... as the company moves into a significant growth period. , It will also expand ...
(Date:10/10/2017)... firm Parks Associates announced today that Tom Kerber , ... Meeting , October 11 in Scottsdale, Arizona . Kerber ... smart safety and security products impact the competitive landscape. ... Parks Associates: Smart Home Devices: Main Purchase Driver ... "The residential security market has experienced continued growth, and the introduction ...
Breaking Biology Technology: