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Biosensors to probe the metals menace
Date:8/29/2007

value increase due to demand, we need better ways to make sure the land is clean and safe to live and work on.

He said there was good progress in developing water organisms as an early warning tool for such contamination, especially where a mix of toxic contaminants is involved.

We've found a number of readily-observable changes which take place in the organism when it is exposed to increased levels of toxic metals and metalloids," he said.

"Their growth and reproduction rates slow down and their shape changes becoming star or V-shaped.

And of course, at high levels of the toxins, they die.

These changes will enable scientists to use the pond creatures as living sensors or biosensors for toxic metal contamination.

The current research challenge, he says, is to use the organisms to develop a sensitive enough test to discern whether or not the level of contamination poses a risk to human health and life.

Simple pond creatures are often more tolerant of metals than humans, who accumulate the toxins over a much longer period of time, leading to cancers, immune system breakdown, nerve or brain damage or other forms of poisoning.

The research task now is to equate the symptoms observed in the microbes with levels of risk to humans and animals, and to package this as a cheap, simple test that can provide a quick answer in the field rather than through long and expensive laboratory testing, Mr McKay said.


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Contact: Jan King
communications@uq.edu.au
61-733-651-120
Research Australia
Source:Eurekalert

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