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Bacterial response to oxidation studied as toxin barometer

Blacksburg, Va., March 26, 2007 Common bacteria with an overt reaction to toxins that cause oxidative stress show promise as a biosensor to predict public health threats.

At the 233rd American Chemical Society national meeting in Chicago March 25-29, researchers from Virginia Tech and the Edward Via Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine (VCOM) will report their work on a bacteria biosensor prototype and correlations to brain tissue damage.

Many environmental toxins in water, such as pesticides, heavy metals, and PCBs, kill through oxidative stress mechanisms, said Bev Rzigalinski, a pharmacologist with VCOM. Oxidative stress is caused by unbalanced molecules called free radicals and other oxidation-promoting molecules that damage cells and genetic material by removing electrons.

Gram negative heterotrophic bacteria spit potassium in the presence of oxidative stress, said Nancy Love, a professor in civil and environmental engineering and an adjunct in biology at Virginia Tech.

More like sweat potassium, said Kaoru Ikuma of Nishinomiya, Japan, an environmental engineering graduate student at Virginia Tech.

However you describe the process for the non-scientist, the bacterias response of pushing potassium out of their cells in the presence of oxidative stress is called the glutathione-gated potassium efflux (GGKE) response. Typical bacterial you find anywhere will have this response, but these particular bacteria really spew potassium, said Love.

And Rzigalinski was pleased to hear it. Perhaps the GGKE response could be used to predict potential damage to animal and human cells. But bacteria are different from mammalian cells, said Rzigalinski, who is focused on neuroscience, particularly brain injury and aging, and nanotechnology (http://nanoneuro.vcom.vt.edu/).

We wanted to see if the same type of marker would work with human cells, particularly
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Contact: Susan Trulove
STrulove@vt.edu
540-231-5646
Virginia Tech
26-Mar-2007


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