AUG 11, 2018 5:45 PM PDT

A Microbrewery can Help us Monitor Radiation Exposure

WRITTEN BY: Carmen Leitch

Yeast is a remarkable organism. It can help chefs bake bread, brewers make beer, and now, it can help track radiation exposure in hospital workers. Monitoring that exposure can ensure that tissue damage caused by radiation will be detected faster. To do so, researchers at Purdue University made little microbreweries with yeast, freezer paper, some tape, and aluminum. With a drop of water, the yeast is activated and will reflect radiation exposure when it's read with a special device. This work has been reported in Advanced Biosystems

Its possible that this technology will be refined even further; a phone or tablet may one day be able to read the signal from the yeast. That badge could be applicable to other professions where radiation exposure is a hazard.
"You would use the badge when you're in the lab and recycle it after you've checked your exposure by plugging it into a device," explained Manuel Ochoa, a postdoctoral researcher in Purdue's School of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

People that take X-rays are regularly exposed to low doses of radiation. The protective gear they use keeps them from getting hit with too much, but some exposure can still happen, and it’s important to check for it. Radiation can lead to cancer, skin problems, thyroid disease, or cataracts.

"Currently, radiology workers are required to wear badges, called dosimeters, on various parts of their bodies for monitoring their radiation exposure," said Babak Ziaie, Purdue professor of electrical and computer engineering. "They wear the badges for a month or two, and then they send them to the company that made them. But it takes weeks for the company to read the data and send a report back to the hospital. Ours give an instant reading at much lower cost."

Workers in hospitals and nuclear facilities can wear disposable yeast badges to check their daily radiation exposure instantly. / Credit: Purdue University image/Kayla Wiles

Yeast has many genetic similarities to humans and reacts quickly to radiation. As the radiation dose increases, more yeast cells die. The live cells continue to metabolize sugar, releasing carbon dioxide in the process, which forms ions. Those ions increase the conductivity of yeast, and the device can detect that.

"We use the change in electrical properties of the yeast to tell us how much radiation damage it incurred. A slow decrease in electrical conductivity over time indicates more damage," explained Rahim Rahimi, Purdue postdoctoral researcher in electrical and computer engineering.

"For yeast, it seems that radiation primarily affects the cell walls of the membrane and mitochondria," Ochoa said. "Since biologists are already familiar with yeast, then we're more likely to understand what's causing the biological effects of radiation in organic matter."

There is a patent now pending for this technology through the Purdue Research Foundation. 


Sources: Science Daily via Purdue University, Advanced Biosystems

About the Author
  • Experienced research scientist and technical expert with authorships on 28 peer-reviewed publications, traveler to over 60 countries, published photographer and internationally-exhibited painter, volunteer trained in disaster-response, CPR and DV counseling.
You May Also Like
DEC 05, 2019
Clinical & Molecular DX
DEC 05, 2019
Catching drug-resistant HIV mutants with next generation sequencing
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive individuals are treated with antiretroviral therapies to reduce the amount of circulating virus, restore their...
DEC 17, 2019
Cannabis Sciences
DEC 17, 2019
Overhauling the Endocannabinoid System with High-fat, High-sugar Diet
If both the endocannabinoid system and the intestinal microbiome are affected by dietary consumption habits, wouldn’t it be reasonable to suggest tha...
JAN 28, 2020
JAN 28, 2020
Gut Bacteria Influences Behavior in Young Children
Research now suggests that the presence of different gut bacteria may significantly impact children’s behavior, causing some to act out, and some to...
FEB 17, 2020
FEB 17, 2020
Another HIV vaccine attempt fizzles out
Years of work and over $100 million in study costs have been abandoned after an HIV-vaccine tested in South Africa failed to protect treated individuals ag...
FEB 18, 2020
FEB 18, 2020
Newly Found Glycopeptide Antibiotics Kill Bacteria in a New Way
The overuse and misuse of antibiotics and the adaptability of microbes has created a problem that people must solve....
FEB 24, 2020
FEB 24, 2020
The World Tries to Stop the Global Spread of COVID-19
There's been a rise in harmful stereotyping and discrimination against certain populations because of coronavirus....
Loading Comments...