Tadpoles Used to Rapidly Detect Water Pollution

Dec 03, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Research conducted by University of Wyoming Professor Paul Johnson and others demonstrates that genetically modified tadpoles work well as sensitive monitors for rapidly detecting water pollution.

In a cover story article published in , the scientists demonstrated that African clawed tadpoles "light up" in response to a pollutant, and can indicate the presence of several chemical species at the same time.

Johnson, a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, says the research meets a pressing need to improve technologies for rapidly detecting physiological effects of environmental pollutants.

"This need is felt not only in the context of screening chemicals that might affect human health, but also to detect pollutants accumulating in the environment," Johnson says. "In each case methods have to be developed that provide robust and reproducible readings obtained on model systems that reflect the full impact of a chemical on a given organism."

The basic principle involves creating genetic constructions that enable a green fluorescent protein to be expressed in response to the physiological stress exerted on the tadpoles by pollutants for which the was designed.

"Tadpoles are particularly useful as environmental monitors because they develop a complete immune system as well as complex heart and circulatory systems, similar to humans, but maturing over days, and not years," Johnson says. "In this work we combined genetically modified tadpoles with a detection system developed at UW to detect the presence of heavy metal pollution in river water in real time."

He says numerous detection methods exist for environmental heavy metal monitoring, but they are very labor intensive and time consuming. Such easy-to-use technologies combining rapidity with living organism measurements had not been developed previously.

More information: The article can be found on the Web at pubs.acs.org/doi/full/10.1021/es9008954 .

Provided by University of Wyoming

Explore further: New report highlights 'significant and increasing' risks from extreme weather

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Frogs with disease-resistance genes may escape extinction

Jul 16, 2008

As frog populations die off around the world, researchers have identified certain genes that can help the amphibians develop resistance to harmful bacteria and disease. The discovery may provide new strategies to protect ...

Italian tadpole rescue mission under way

May 11, 2006

A complex emergency rescue mission reportedly is under way near Milan, Italy, to save the lives of hundreds of rare tadpoles discovered at a building site.

Time of Day Tempers Tadpoles' Response to Predators

Aug 10, 2006

To a tiny tadpole, life boils down to two basic missions: eat, and avoid being eaten. But there's a trade-off. The more a tadpole eats, the faster it grows big enough to transform into a frog; yet finding food requires being ...

Recommended for you

Gold rush an ecological disaster for Peruvian Amazon

18 hours ago

A lush expanse of Amazon rainforest known as the "Mother of God" is steadily being destroyed in Peru, with the jungle giving way to mercury-filled tailing ponds used to extract the gold hidden underground.

Australia out of step with new climate momentum

20 hours ago

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, who rose to power in large part by opposing a tax on greenhouse gas emissions, is finding his country isolated like never before on climate change as the U.S., China ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

vanderMerwe
not rated yet Dec 04, 2009
Oh Hell, the CSIR was doing this sort of stuff twenty five years ago. They were using small fish rather than tadpoles, however. Nothing new here.

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.