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Glowing bug used to warn of disease


Students have developed a process which can easily identify whether a harmful disease is present without the need for complex equipment.

Medical and computing science students at Newcastle University have designed a bacterium that glows red if pathogens – disease-causing micro-organisms – are present. If the bacterium is in the presence of harmless bacteria, it glows green.

Researchers said the simplicity of the design means it can be used in the field with no need for sophisticated laboratories. The bacterium can even be dried and broken down into spore form.

Dr Jennifer Hallinan, advisor and Research Council UK Academic Research Fellow in Complex Systems, School of Computing Science, said: “This represents our first step into the hot new field of synthetic biology.

“The students have found it quite challenging and it’s really taken them out of their comfort zone, but they’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.

“It is a tremendously exciting opportunity, both for the students themselves, and for the university.”

The six students, whose backgrounds range from computer science and bioinformatics to microbiology and biochemistry, will pitch their idea at the International Genetically Engineered Machines in Boston, US, this weekend.

Copyright PA Business 2008

Newcastle University

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