Generating a biosensor for the detection of landmines
Wednesday, Oct 17, 2012, 8:00 AM - 9:00 AM
, M. SAPARAUSKAITE, P. FEINSTEIN;
Biol. Sci., Hunter College/Cuny, New York, NY
There are currently 66 countries and 7 territories around the world that are affected by landmines and/or explosive remnants of war. Long after war ends, landmines pose a structural barrier to development and economic growth. Developing communities remain dependent on imported expertise to address the complex problems of landmine detection and clearance of suspected areas. Detection of landmines is difficult, dangerous, costly and time-consuming (http://www.apopo.org).
Considering the critical need to develop a biosensor for the detection of explosives found in landmines, our goal is to generate a transgenic mouse strain that is hypersensitive to 2,4-dinitrotoluene (DNT), a mimic for the explosive TNT.
Currently, a Belgian NGO, APOPO, trains giant African pouched rats (HeroRats) to identify the scent of explosives in landmines. The rats have an acute sense of smell and are small enough not to detonate the mines. Every time they detect TNT, the rats make a clicking sound and receive a bite of banana as a reward. Although this approach has proven to be effective (two of APOPO’s mine detection rats, working with two human handlers, can cover 300 square meters of land in one hour. In comparison, two manual deminers using metal detectors, will need two full days to cover the same area), it takes nine months of painstaking on-and-off field training for a rat to be deployed for mine detection. Therefore, we engineered an innovative biological approach to challenge this global health problem.
We generated a transgenic mouse model that over expresses a newly identified odorant receptor (OR) that can report the presence of 2,4-dinitrotoluene (DNT), an explosive residue mimic (Radhika et al., 2007 & Fukutami et al., 2011). Usually, a specific OR is expressed in 1/1000 neurons with a limited detection of the specific odorant as a consequence; our technique allows us to amplify the detection limit of a specific odor of interest 500-fold, which may be even further amplified by higher cortical areas of the brain.
A first analysis of these transgenic animals showed that glomeruli (the first relay station in the brain, which allows for synaptic activity of an activated odorant receptor to be registered), which are tagged with a red fluorescent protein, are formed in the olfactory bulb. We are currently testing these genetically modified mice for their sensitivity to DNT using in vivo imaging techniques and behavioral tests such as the go/no go discrimination test.
This is the first time that a mouse with a ‘monoclonal nose’, in which greater than 50% of the sensory neurons express a single odorant receptor gene, hypersensitive to a mimic for the explosive TNT has been created.
[Authors]. [Abstract Title]. Program No. XXX.XX. 2012 Neuroscience Meeting Planner. New Orleans, LA: Society for Neuroscience, 2012. Online.
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