Researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) in collaboration with bioproduction company Enzymit have successfully developed a protein-based biosensor capable of accurately detecting landmines and a wide range of other undetonated explosives based on TNT. Using Enzymit’s proprietary algorithms and experimental capabilities, the team optimized the sensor, achieving a five-fold increase in sensitivity, faster reaction times, and a signal that is 30 times stronger than the original model. The findings were published in the Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal.

Led by Professor Shimshon Belkin, head of the University’s Environmental Microbiology and Biosensors Laboratory, the team developed a bacteria-based approach to detect explosives. Through their research, they created a sensor based on living cells that emit bioluminescence to accurately identify the presence of even small amounts of the explosive DNT (2,4-Dinitrotoluene). This innovative technology offers a cost-effective and efficient solution to the global proliferation of landmines, which continue to pose a serious threat to human life and the environment.

Traditional methods of landmine detection are costly, time-consuming, and can be dangerous. The team’s biosensor platform uses E. coli bacteria to detect small amounts of DNT, a volatile byproduct of TNT that leaks from the mines into the surrounding soil. The E. coli is programmed to die shortly after being deployed, ensuring that it poses no danger to humans or the environment.

The collaboration between the Hebrew University team and Enzymit demonstrates the potential of synthetic biology in addressing pressing global challenges. Over the past decade, the laboratory has focused on developing biosensor solutions for explosive detection, and this project has led to the creation of an advanced biosensor platform. In addition to landmine detection, the team is exploring the expansion of the biosensor platform to detect other dangerous materials such as alternative forms of explosives, environmental toxins, and hazardous chemicals.

Gideon Lapidoth, CEO of Enzymit, expressed admiration for Professor Belkin’s team and their outstanding contributions to the development of biosensor solutions for explosive detection. He highlighted the innovative nature of this project in the field of landmine detection and emphasized the potential of combining synthetic biology with artificial intelligence to create safe and sustainable solutions for humanitarian and environmental challenges.

– Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
– Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal.