“Glow or no glow” technique maybe used to defend against biological terror attack

June 18th, 2009 - 2:59 pm ICT by ANI  

Washington, June 18 (ANI): A new evaluation of a “glow or no glow” technique may soon help the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) defend the nation against a spectrum of biological weapons that could be used in a terrorist attack.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have done the evaluation.

One very dangerous toxin on the list is ricin, a protein derived from castor beans that is lethal in doses as small as 500 micrograms, about the size of a grain of salt.

As part of its efforts to address the threat, DHS is working with NIST to create a standardized ricin sample with a known potency.

Such a standard is needed both to check the accuracy of detection equipment, and, should an attack occur, to confirm the success of decontamination procedures.

NIST scientists have now achieved a major step toward this goal -the development of a rapid, reliable and precise assay of the potency of a ricin sample.

The new NIST assay uses a commercially available cell line genetically engineered to produce large amounts of green fluorescent protein (GFP).

Ricin shuts down ribosomes - the protein manufacturing factories of a cell. Assay cells exposed to the toxin will quickly stop synthesizing GFP.

This, in turn, will result in a measurable decrease in fluorescence - a drop that correlates directly to the strength of the ricin present.

The NIST assay yields many advantages over traditional cytotoxicity measuring systems, including: a highly sensitive response to ricin within 6 rather than 24 hours; detection of the toxin long before significant cell death has occurred; results that are highly reproducible; no need for the addition of any reagents; and the flexibility to measure the potency of other ribosome inhibitors, even nanoparticles, with the same precision as ricin. (ANI)

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