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Scientists Create Spore-based Sensing System

NSF Award:

Spore-Based Biosensing Systems: A Stabilized Dormant-Active Approach to Whole-Cell Biosensors  (University of Kentucky Research Foundation)

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Sylvia Daunert and her group at the University of Kentucky have recently demonstrated that their spore-based, whole-cell sensing systems can survive and maintain performance, even in storage at room temperature for up to 24 months. Bacterial spores, or endospores, are dormant, non-reproductive structures produced by bacteria. They are able to withstand extreme environmental conditions for long periods of time and can resume full metabolic activity upon stimulation. 

Taking advantage of their unique properties, Daunert used spore-forming bacteria, such as Bacillus subtilis and Bacillus megaterium to develop a sensing system for both arsenic (a known poison that is harmful to humans, plants and animals) and zinc (an essential element required for all life).  The arsenic (or zinc) sensing cells can be converted back to spores and "revived" (germinated) at a later time to generate viable and metabolically active cells. These spore-based sensing systems could one-day be used to monitor human health and the environment.


  • Image of dandelion spores
Dandelion spores
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