Let your light shine – bacteria sensor lights up when exposed to toxins

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In Denmark, Technical University of Denmark researchers collaborating with Israeli colleagues have built a sensor equipped with bacteria which light up when exposed to certain toxic substances, allowing reliable, immediate testing that could be crucial when toxins are suspected in drinking water, foods, or even the air.

According to their news release, “The method employs a nanophotonic chip onto which genetically modified coliform bacteria have been placed, causing the bacteria to emit a faint light when exposed to certain toxic substances. The bacteria, which can be ‘encoded’ to monitor different toxins, are therefore very toxin-specific. In the past, the problem has been that the very faint light emitted by the modified bacteria was easily ‘drowned out’ by the weak light radiated by all the other bacteria surrounding them. The invention is groundbreaking in that it isolates the bacteria used as detectors—i.e. the bacteria researchers want to see.”