In the Yorktown Creek study, the researchers used the biosensor to track the runoff of PAHs from roadways and soils during a rainstorm.
Kaattari says "Our basic idea was to fuse two different kinds of technologiesmonoclonal antibodies and electronic sensorsin order to detect contaminants."
Antibodies are proteins produced by the immune system of humans and other mammals. They are particularly well suited for detecting contaminants because they have, as Kaattari puts it, an "almost an infinite power to recognize the 3-dimensional shape of any molecule."
Mammals produce antibodies that recognize and bind with large organic molecules such as proteins or with viruses. The VIMS team took this process one step further, linking proteins to PAHs and other contaminants, then exposing mice to these paired compounds in a manner very similar to a regular vaccination.
"Just like you get vaccinated against the flu, we in essence are vaccinating our mice against contaminants," says Kaattari. "The mouse's lymphatic system then produces antibodies to PAHs, TNT, tributyl tin [TBT, the active ingredient in anti-fouling paints for boats], or other compounds."
Once a mouse has produced an antibody to a particular contaminant, the VIMS team applies standard clinical techniques to produce "monoclonal antibodies" in sufficiently large quantities for use in a biosensor.
"This technology allows you to immortalize a lymphocyte that produces only a very specific antibody," says Kaattari. "You grow the lymphocytes in culture and can produce large quantities of antibodies within a couple of weeks. You can preserve th
|Contact: Dr. Mike Unger|
Virginia Institute of Marine Science