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Glow-Beetles help to find Microbes


To calculate microbes in milk or in the operating-room, it is necessary to make them glow like well-known glow-beetles (Lampyridae gen.) do. Now that the secret of glow-beetles’ luminescence has been discovered, and researchers of the Lomonosov Moscow State University not only synthesize the enzyme required for luminescence, but they also produce snap analysis sets based on it, the sets allowing to literally calculate microbes practically in any analysis object within several minutes. The most complicated cases would require the six-hour analysis.

“Our method is based on measuring intensity of luminescence, which occurs upon interaction of a special enzyme, luciferase, with molecules of the so-called ATF - adenosinetriphosphoric acid, says Professor Ugarova, (Doctor of Science (Chemistry)), research manager. This substance called universal accumulator and energy source of living organisms exists in any bioplast. Accordingly, it does exist in microbes as well.”

If membranes of microbe’s sells are destroyed, ATF will, bluntly speaking, simply flow out of them and its quantity may be determined with the help of luciferase. The relation is direct: the more bioplast the sample contains, the more ATF is contained in the solution and the more it will glow upon addition of the enzyme. Certainly, this is a highly simplified outline of the process, and the way from the first investigations up to a simple and reliable methodology took years. However, it has been almost passed through, at any rate the first pilot batches of snap analysis sets have already been released.

It is worth noting that the word “snap” in the name of the method is very important. The point is that the microbial contamination analysis is now performed in a traditional way. A sample is placed in a nutrient medium. If microorganisms exist in the sample, they propagate themselves and in a day or two their number is usually sufficient for counting under a microscope.

Evidently, the method is not very accurate, and most importantly - it takes too much time. A prompt response cannot be expected, particularly if it comes to the objects where microbes are knowingly few, for example, sterile instruments or premises. However, in the absence of a better one, this method is so far the sole approved by the all-Union State Standard.

However, already by the end of 2005, it can be expected that the all-Union State Standard for microbiological purity control of unboiled milk for example will include two methods for choice, one of them being based on the research by the Moscow chemists. The method will not always work instantly either, but the authors warrant that it will definitely be precise. If microbes are few in the object, they will have to be bred as the researchers put it, but no longer than for six hours versus one hundred and twenty hours under the ordinary method. This, of course, will be done in exclusive cases, when the premises is indeed practically sterile, and bioplast is scarce in it. The standard analysis takes only several minutes, i.e. dozens of times less than the traditional microbiological one.

The LUMTECH small-scale enterprise will produce sets for snap-control of microbe contamination. The company exists for about a year, since February 2004 when researchers of the Lomonosov Moscow State University established it up with assistance of the Foundation for Assistance to Small Innovative Enterprises (FASIE). Methods are basically ready, although the authors continue scientific research to develop new ones. They also carry put paper work in parallel to approve the new method and to include it into the all-Union State Standard of the Russian Federation.

In the meantime, pilot batches of the sets are already being manufactured by the company. Luciferase for reagents is already produced not by glow-beetles but by bacteria specially taught by chemists, a special gene being embeded in the DNA of these bacteria for this purpose. So the enzyme is obtained absolutely identical to the natural one and at any time of the day. This does not sound very romantic, but it is reliable and enzyme can be produced in any required amount.

Sergey Komarov | alfa
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