Current landmine detection methodologies are not much different in principle from those employed 75 years ago, in that they require actual presence in the minefield, with obvious risks to personnel and equipment. Other limitations include an extremely large ratio of false positives, as well as a very limited ability to detect non-metallic landmines. In this lecture a microbial-based solution for the remote detection of buried landmines described. The small size requirements, rapid responses and sensing versatility of bacterial bioreporters allow their integration into diverse types of devices, for laboratory as well as field applications. The relative ease by which molecular sensing and reporting elements can be fused together to generate dose-dependent quantifiable physical (luminescent, fluorescent, colorimetric, electrochemical) responses to pre-determined conditions allows the construction of diverse classes of sensors. Over the last two decades we and others have employed this principle to design and construct microbial bioreporter strains for the sensitive detection of (a) specific chemicals of environmental concern (heavy metals, halogenated organics etc.) or (b) their deleterious biological effects on living systems (such as toxicity or genotoxicity). In many of these cases, additional molecular manipulations beyond the initial sensor-reporter fusion may be highly beneficial for enhancing the performance of the engineered sensor systems. This presentation highlights several of the approaches we have adopted over the years to achieve this aim, while focusing on the application of live cell microbeads for the remote detection of buried landmines and other explosive devices.
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