Living Sensors at Your Fingertips

Researchers at MIT say they have designed a new "living material" that has potential for sensing chemicals in the environment, and in the human body. Xuanhe Zhao, the Robert N. Noyce Career Development associate professor of mechanical engineering at MIT, says the material, described as a "tough, stretchy, biocompatible sheet of hydrogel injected with live cells that are genetically programed to light up in the presence of certain chemicals" could be adapted for crime scene investigation and forensic science.

 
Researchers have found that the hydrogel’s mostly watery environment helps keep nutrients and programmed bacteria alive and active. When the bacteria reacts to a certain chemical, the bacteria are programmed to light up, as seen on the left. Photo: Courtesy of the researchers
 

The researchers fabricated a hydrogel / elastomer glove with fingertips that contain swirl-like channels, each filled with different chemical-sensing bacterial cells. In tests, each fingertip glowed in response to picking up a cotton ball soaked with a respective compound.

You can read more about the research here.

 
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Court Case Update

FINGERPRINT EVIDENCE went through a nearly three-year ordeal in the New Hampshire court system, but eventually emerged unscathed. On April 4, 2008, the New Hampshire Supreme Court unanimously reversed the decision of a lower court to exclude expert testimony regarding fingerprint evidence in the case of The State of New Hampshire v. Richard Langill. The case has been remanded back to the Rockingham County Superior Court.

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