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Tests show new biosensor can guide environmental clean-ups
Date:5/5/2011

e antibody-producing lymphocyte forever, which means you don't have to go to a new animal every time you need to produce new antibodies."

From antibody to electrical signal

The team's next step was to develop a sensor that can recognize when an antibody binds with a contaminant and translate that recognition into an electrical signal. The Sapidyne sensor used by the VIMS team works via what Kaattari calls a "fluorescence-inhibitory, spectroscopic kind of assay."

In the sensor used on the Elizabeth River and Yorktown Creek, antibodies designed to recognize a specific class of PAHs were joined with a dye that glows when exposed to fluorescent light. The intensity of that light is in turn recorded as a voltage. The sensor also houses tiny plastic beads that are coated with what Spier calls a "PAH surrogate"a PAH derivative that retains the shape that the antibody recognizes as a PAH molecule.

When water samples with low PAH levels are added to the sensor chamber (which is already flooded with a solution of anti-PAH antibodies), the antibodies have little to bind with and are thus free to attach to the surrogate-coated beads, providing a strong fluorescent glow and electric signal. In water samples with high PAH concentrations, on the other hand, a large fraction of the antibodies bind with the environmental contaminants. That leaves fewer to attach to the surrogate-coated beads, which consequently provides a fainter glow and a weaker electric signal.

During the Elizabeth River study, the biosensor measured PAH concentrations that ranged from 0.3 to 3.2 parts per billion, with higher PAH levels closer to the dredge site. In Yorktown Creek, the biosensor showed that PAH levels in runoff peaked 1 to 2 hours after the rain started, with peak concentration of 4.4 parts per billion.

Comparison of the biosensor's field readings with later readings from a mass spectrometer at VIMS showed that the biosensor is just as
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Contact: Dr. Mike Unger
munger@vims.edu
804-684-7187
Virginia Institute of Marine Science
Source:Eurekalert

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