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New use for stem cells found in war on terrorism

Stice explained the device. The monitoring system records electrical activity in the neural cells, which are usually in a set, rhythmic pattern, he said, drawing a chart that looks like a pattern on a heart monitor.

When faced with a chemical agent, he said, the electrical activity is reduced quite a bit, and the signals are erratic. He shows the effect by shortening the length and frequency of the upward lines in the pattern.

The computer interprets the neural cell signals and indicates a problem, he said.

The researchers got support for the project from several congressmen, including Sen. Johnny Isakson and Georgia Rep. Jack Kingston.

Stice has already begun to think of implications beyond the obvious.

We think that working with these human neural cells can lead to other collaborative projects in treating posttraumatic stress syndrome and head injuries from war, he said. Those are just two of the many possible spinoffs I foresee.

The current system can detect an agent but it can't identify it. We may be able to further develop the system so that for some chemicals there are signatures that will lead to a future way to rapidly identify exactly what the chemical is, Stice said.

Noncell systems available now can detect specified chemicals, he said. But this is a broader detection system that will be more valuable because we don't know what terrorists will hit us with.

The idea is planted and the materials assembled. Now the waiting for funding begins.

We can start as soon as the money comes, Stice said. We've already done the preliminary work. We know our cells will work with their system. How well they'll work is the question we'll have to answer.

Stice feels this detection system is important to troops and civilians. There's always a concern for nerve agents and unintentional effects of warfare where troops are in the way of chemical agents, he said.

The beauty

Contact: Kim Osborne
University of Georgia

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