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Korean scientists develop `virus sensor` to detect pollutants

Korean scientists develop `virus sensor` to detect pollutants

Posted March. 24, 2015 00:32,   


Korean scientists have developed a new sensor that can measure fine pollutants that cause allergy, asthma and even cancer.

A group of researchers led by Kim Sang-kyung (see photo), a principal research scientist at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology (KIST), said on Monday that the team successfully developed a high-sensitivity sensor that measures specific substance out of volatile organic compounds using a piece of protein of a virus.

Benzene and toluene are classic examples of volatile organic compounds, which cause a sick house syndrome and even a cancer. It was difficult to measure the level of a specific volatile organic compound in the air without a gigantic device used in laboratories. Most portable sensors, which were developed recently, would only indicate the existence of the compound in the air.

The researchers successfully found a piece of protein that is attached to a specific volatile organic compound using a “bacteriophage,” a harmless virus often used in bioresearch.

Protein pieces can be mass produced at a cheap price using a bacteriophage. If a protein piece, which attaches to a certain substance produced from a human’s respiration, is discovered, it can be used to develop a medical device that can monitor a person’s health conditions only with breathing. It can also be used to develop a portable device that checks the maturity or fermentation of foods.

“A square of one centimeter by one centimeter can make a sensor measuring 16 substances,” Kim said. “The device can be portable so that it can be attached and detached to smartphones.”

The research result was released on the online edition of “Scientific Reports,” a sister publication of “Nature,” on March 17.