BioBricked bacteria glow in the presence of landmines

Paul Raven @ 18-11-2009

landmine warning sign, CambodiaAn alarmingly large amount of the world’s surface is strewn with landmines left behind after conflicts of one sort or another, leaving the locals at risk of death and mutilation long after the dispute that caused them to be laid down has ended (or moved elsewhere).

Scouting for landmines is a risky job for humans (and, sadly, not everyone has a bomb dog like UXO)… but a student project at the University of Edinburgh may have found an easier and safer way of locating the mines so that they can be defused:

Bacteria which glow green in the presence of explosives could provide a cheap and safe way to find hidden landmines, Edinburgh scientists claim. The bugs can be mixed into a colourless solution, which forms green patches when sprayed onto ground where mines are buried. Edinburgh University said the microbes could be dropped by air onto danger areas. Within a few hours, they would indicate where the explosives can be found. The scientists produced the bacteria using a new technique called BioBricking, which manipulates packages of DNA.

Sounds like the perfect solution… although, as Inhabitat points out, we could do with being sure that the bacteria are thoroughly benign and unlikely to spread beyond the target area, lest we simply swap landmines for a form of unintended biological warfare. [via SlashDot; image by karl simourd]

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