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:11/16/2015)... Nov 16, 2015  Synaptics Inc. (NASDAQ: ... solutions, today announced expansion of its TDDI product ... touch controller and display driver integration (TDDI) solutions ... These new TDDI products add to the previously-announced ... TD4302 (WQHD resolution), and TD4322 (FHD resolution) solutions. ...
(Date:11/10/2015)... , Nov. 10, 2015  In this ... the basis of product, type, application, disease ... in this report are consumables, services, software. ... are safety biomarkers, efficacy biomarkers, and validation ... report are diagnostics development, drug discovery and ...
(Date:11/2/2015)...  SRI International has been awarded a contract of ... to the National Cancer Institute (NCI) PREVENT Cancer Program ... modern testing and support facilities, and analytical instrumentation to ... studies to evaluate potential cancer prevention drugs. ... Drug Development Program is an NCI-supported pipeline to bring ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/30/2015)... - BioAmber Inc. (NYSE: BIOA ), a leader in renewable ... Act on Climate Pledge, alongside more than 140 companies from ... Administration to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to climate action and ... Paris climate negotiations. ... . --> BioAmber uses biotechnology to convert ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... , Nov. 30, 2015 Harvard ... ), a biotechnology company developing bioengineered organ implants ... written notification from The NASDAQ Stock Market that ... price requirements. The letter noted that as a ... common stock having exceeded $1.00 per share for ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... GA (PRWEB) , ... November 30, 2015 , ... ... a new globally touring exhibition Jurassic World: The Exhibition, opening in March 2016 ... will embark on a worldwide tour including several North American tour dates. The ...
(Date:11/30/2015)... 30, 2015 TapImmune, Inc. ... of innovative peptide and gene-based immunotherapeutics and vaccines for ... it will be presenting at the 8 th ... at 2.30 PM PT. Dr. John N. Bonfiglio ... be giving the presentation and will join TapImmune management ...
Breaking Biology Technology: