Tag Archives: detection

Patriotic turkeys teaching researchers how to detect explosives

SONY DSCBenjamin Franklin suggested that the turkey should have been the official symbol of the United States of America instead of the bald eagle. While that didn’t quite work out, it might have been fitting! Turkeys are more patriotic than you might think- while the skin on their necks and heads is normally red, when they get excited, it can change to blue or white.

Pretty cool. And researchers thought so, too. In fact, by studying turkey skin, researchers at UC Berkeley found that skin color was determined by the organization of underlying bundles of collagen (structural proteins). When a turkey gets excited, blood vessels in the skin contract, exposing collagen bands and altering the way light reflects off the turkey’s skin. So researchers decided to re-create the collagen structures in order to develop a sensor that changes colors in the presence of different compounds.

They developed a sensor that can detect low levels of the explosive TNT, and created an iPhone app that can analyze the color changes. And it works- this system can detect TNT at concentrations as low as 300 parts per billion! Now, in addition to having a cool color-changing party trick, the turkey can add “bomb detection inspiration” to its resume!


Peeing on a stick just became awesome

iStock_000006931163SmallIf you’ve peed on a stick,¬†you’re either a woman who has tried to determine your ovulation or pregnancy status, or a significant other who wanted to know what would happen if YOU peed on the stick. Either way, if you’ve done it, you know that it is NOT awesome. No matter how hard you try, it’s just about impossible to pee on that damn absorbent tip without peeing all over your hand. Seriously- NOT awesome.

But that’s about to change. Researchers have developed a test that could detect cancer- and it’s as easy as peeing on a stick. Tumor proteins are harder to detect than pregnancy hormones, so here’s how it works: a patient would get an injection of a biomarker that would interact with tumor cells. Cancer cells produce specific kinds of proteins that alter the biomarker, and that interaction is detected when the patient pees on a stick. The whole process takes about an hour.

If you don’t think that’s awesome, read the last paragraph again. This test has been successful in animal studies, and could be a useful diagnostic tool that doesn’t require expensive equipment or trained personnel to perform it.

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