Now a ‘bionic nose’ to detect bombs, cancers

March 31st, 2009 - 1:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, March 31 (IANS) Both cancer cells and chemicals used in bombs evade detection because they are present in very small quantities. But now a new method being developed can detect them by amplifying near invisible traces of biomarkers in cancer, materials in explosives or pollutants in water.
Pioneered by Doron Shabat, a bio-organic chemist and professor at Tel Aviv University’s School of Chemistry, the technology being developed aims to amplify signals millions and billions of times.

“We are developing a molecular system that amplifies certain events,” said Shabat.

“That way we’ll be able to respond faster to medical, security and environmental threats. In effect, our device can amplify just about any chemical system that has a certain kind of reactivity.

“It has the potential to help doctors diagnose diseases - those with biomarkers, and enzymatic activities that are compatible with our molecular probe,” Shabat explained.

“The long list includes a few kinds of cancers, including prostate cancer. But it also has applications for testing for impurities in water. It has both biological and non-biological applications,” he was quoted as saying in a Tel Aviv University release.

Shabat’s invention is a molecular sensor that acts in a solution. A chemist would add trace amounts of the test material from the field - a spoonful of contaminated drinking water, for example - into the solution and would simply see if the colour of the solution changes. If so, the targeted material - the cancer, explosive or pollutant - is present.

These findings were published in Chemical Communication.

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