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New Frog-Inspired Sensor May Revolutionize Medical Contaminant Testing

October 26, 2010, 2:44 PM

In another nod to biomimicry as a potent source of design and engineering innovation, researchers at Princeton University have developed a new sensor that can change the way drugs and medical devices are tested for contamination, and it uses frog skin to do it.

The innovative chip utilizes antimicrobial peptides from the skin of an African clawed frog to produce electrical warning signals as medical devices and drugs come in contact with bacterial contaminants, much like the frog uses these same chains of amino acids in the wild to protect itself from infection. The sensor can detect a range of harmful bacteria, including salmonella and pathogenic E. coli.

Until now, contaminant testing has been using the blood of a 450-million-year-old crab species. But due to the declining horseshoe crab population in recent years, researchers have been forced to look for alternatives. Because the African clawed frog is an abundant and rapidly procreating species, the Princeton sensor may offer a viable new standard.

image credit: Frank Wojciechowski

Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of miscellaneous interestingness. She writes for Wired UK, GOOD Magazine, Design Observer and Huffington Post, and spends a shameful amount of time on Twitter.


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