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Contamination Detection

A DNA-based device can test water for contamination, according to New Scientist.

Researchers from Northwestern University previously designed a device they called ROSALIND, for "RNA output sensors activated by ligand induction," that would glow in the presence of high levels of certain contaminants. As they report in Nature Chemical Biology, the researchers have now updated ROSALIND to ROSALIND 2.0 that includes toehold-mediated strand displacement circuits that enable it to perform logic functions.

The system includes eight test tubes containing contaminant biosensors, and each tube includes an increasing amount of those sensors to gauge contaminant levels, a press release from Northwestern notes. How many test tubes glow not only indicate the presence of a contaminant, but gives a sense of how much of the contaminant is present. The researchers report they were able to use their system to detect zinc.

According to New Scientist, the researchers envision their tool as an easy way to ensure drinking water is safe. "We're trying to make the most simple and robust thing you can imagine, so it's hopefully foolproof," senior author Julius Lucks from Northwestern tells it.