Miércoles, 20 Setiembre, 2017

Israeli Scientists Genetically Engineer Glowing Bacteria to Detect Land Mines

Glowing bacteria detect buried landmines Hebrew University innovation: Glowing bacteria detect land mines
Cris De Lacerda | 12 Abril, 2017, 21:26

Researchers at Hebrew University have discovered a new way to detect underground land mines with a combination of fluorescent bacteria and lasers.

The need for safe and efficient technologies to detect unexploded ordnance is a humanitarian issue of huge global proportions. Globally, about 500,000 people are suffering from mine-inflicted injuries, with the number of casualties and injuries increasing between 15,000 and 20,000 every year.

It is estimated that more than 100 million landmines are still buried in more than 70 countries.

The major technical challenge in clearing minefields is detecting the mines.

The technologies used today are not much different from those used in the Second World War, requiring detection teams to risk life and limb by physically entering the minefields. That may be about to change, thanks to research carried out by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

Titled "Remote detection of buried landmines using a bacterial sensor", the paper describes a system that takes advantage of the trace amounts of "explosive vapors" observed to leak from all landmines.

The researchers molecularly engineered live bacteria that emit a fluorescent signal when they come into contact with these vapours.

To test the system, the team encapsulated the bacteria in small polymeric beads, which were scattered across the surface of a field in which landmines were buried. Using a laser-based scanning system, the test field was remotely scanned and the location of the buried mines was determined. The signal can be recorded and quantified from a remote location.

The laser-based scanning system used to locate buried landmines.

This is apparently the first demonstration of a functional standoff land-mine detection system, Belkin said.

"Our field data show that engineered biosensors may be useful in a land-mine detection system".

Prof. Shimshon Belkin of HU's Alexander Silberman Institute of Life Sciences reports a potential answer to this need that he has just published in the journal Nature Biotechnology.

But to make this possible, more work needs to be done, he said, including enhancing the sensitivity and the stability of the bacteria, improving scanning speeds to cover large areas, and making the scanning apparatus more compact so that it can be used aboard a light unmanned aircraft or drone, he said.