Biosensor sniffs out explosives

May 08, 2007
Biosensor sniffs out explosives
When the biosensor detects DNT, it lights up green. Credit: D. Dhanasekaran

Temple University School of Medicine researchers have developed a new biosensor that sniffs out explosives and could one day be used to detect landmines and deadly agents, such as sarin gas, according to a paper in the June issue of Nature Chemical Biology.

To create the biosensor, Danny Dhanasekaran and colleagues genetically engineered a yeast strain with mammalian (rat) olfactory signaling machinery and genetically linked it to the expression of green fluorescent protein. Into these yeast cells, they cloned individual rat olfactory receptors. When the olfactory receptor "smells" the odor of DNT, an ingredient in the explosive TNT, the biosensor turns fluorescent green. The research team is the first to identify, clone and sequence this novel olfactory receptor.

"We suspected that harnessing the potential of the olfactory system, which can detect innumerable chemical agents with unparalleled sensitivity and selectivity, would be of immense value in the detection of environmental toxins and chemical warfare agents even at sublethal levels," said Dhanasekaran, Associate Professor of Biochemistry at Temple’s Fels Institute for Cancer Research and Molecular Biology.

The research team is now perfecting the utility of the biosensor, for example, its response time, and believes that the potential therapeutic applications extend beyond the detection of chemical agents.

"With further genetic fine-tuning of the olfactory receptor pathway, this system could also be used to screen experimental medications, a crucial step in the development of new drugs," said Dhanasekaran.

Biosensors, which are made from natural ingredients, are preferable to man-made sensors, which can be expensive, cumbersome and inflexible. Dhanasekaran envisions that the biosensor will soon be incorporated into a handheld device or a remote device that can be left at a location and monitored from afar.

Source: Temple University

Explore further: 'Invisible' protein structure explains the power of enzymes

Related Stories

Cuban, US scientists bond over big sharks

35 minutes ago

Somewhere in the North Atlantic right now, a longfin mako shark—a cousin of the storied great white—is cruising around, oblivious to the yellow satellite tag on its dorsal fin.

Light echo helps researchers map out parts of galaxy

5 minutes ago

Thousands of years before humans invented agriculture, a bright burst of X-rays left the dense neutron star Circinus X-1, located in the faint Southern constellation Circinus. A year and a half ago, those ...

Gimmicks and technology: California learns to save water

45 minutes ago

Billboards and TV commercials, living room visits, guess-your-water-use booths, and awards for water stinginess—a wealthy swath of Orange County that once had one of the worst records for water conservation ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.