Potato detector

TWO RESEARCHERS have produced genetically altered potato tissue that can detect compounds like alcohol and drug products in body fluids. Garry Rechnitz and Ae-June Wang of the University of Hawaii in Manoa say the tissue contains an enzyme that produces a fluorescent product when exposed to the target molecule (New Scientist, Vol 140, No 1905).

Several sensors use enzymes to recognise the molecules of compounds. In such sensors, the enzymes are simply bonded to a support material. However, this makes them vulnerable to acids, heat and air, and hence short-lived. Rechnitz and Wang believe incorporating the enzyme into living potato tissue helps preserve the sensor.