Toshiba cell sensor detects hazardous substances
Toshiba has successfully worked on a cell sensor which is capable of detecting hazardous substances, and the Japanese technology giant is currently exhibiting it at Nano Tech 2008 – an international comprehensive exhibition on nano technology. How does this sensor work exactly? Well, for starters, it comes incorporated with genes of enzyme and firefly luciferase which is capable of binding hazardous substances like dioxin, polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) and brominated flame retardants. This marks the first time Toshiba’s sensor has been unleashed upon the public, although there is no concrete date from Toshiba on deciding its commercialization schedule.
It functions by first detecting those hazardous substances by binding its receptors with dioxin, PCB and others. Subsequently, the resultant substances will further bind with the enzyme gene (TH gene). This comes about upon an adjacent luciferase which results in the cell emitting light. Toshiba researchers claim that “halogen is estimated to be associated with the reaction because dioxin, PCB and brominated flame retardants all include this element. But the mechanism of binding has not been elucidated completely, and the research is now underway”. Looks like there is still quite some distance to go before the technology is perfected, but this is an excellent start.
At the Nano Tech conference, Toshiba did conduct some tests which involved administering dioxin to the cell sensor, where the sensor started to emit light after a long wait – 4 hours, to be exact. The emission was apparent after half a dozen hours, so you can’t really get instant detection just yet. Then again, waiting for just six hours is considered a leap since current methods that are based on bioassay (the method of assessing biological actions by means of a biological response) take something like 24 hours before something is detected.