The Future of Biosensors
Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and other facilities have been developing biosensors for decades. The researchers at Oak Ridge believe bacterial communities can act as a valuable addition to the arsenal of environmental indicator tools and suggest that their evaluation method could be used for “everything from well water testing to seaside construction purposes." They cite an example of someone considering seaside construction who wants to know if there has ever been an oil spill. The bacteria testing method could be used to evaluate the environmental health of the area, even if there are no obvious physical signs of any previous oil spill.
Biosensors come in a variety of shapes and sizes and are already being used in a wide range of situations. Scientists developed the earliest biosensors in part to identify harmful bacteria, but the newest ones harness natural or genetically engineered bacteria. There are endless potential medical, military, industrial and environmental applications.
Bacterial biosensors can be used to detect the presence of explosives or biological or chemical warfare agents; to signal the presence of cancer-causing agents or toxins in water; or to detect and provide clues to human aging and disease.
Bacterial biosensors are proving to be fast, sensitive, specific, and reliable detection methods. Our ever-increasing concern regarding the microbiological safety of our food, water, industrial waste, and pharmaceuticals, ensures that as the technology improves, our perception of bacteria as “friend not foe," will expand as well.
The full findings of the Oak Ridge study are available in the American Society for Microbiology’s online journal, mBio.