A team led by Professor Yosi Shacham-Diamand, vice-dean of Tel Aviv University's Faculty of Engineering, has developed a nano-sized laboratory, complete with a microscopic workbench, to measure water quality in real time. This lab-on-a-chip is a breakthrough in the effort to keep water safe from pollution. "We've developed a platform - essentially a micro-sized, quarter-inch square 'lab' - employing genetically engineered bacteria that light up when presented with a stressor in water," says Shacham-Diamand. Equipment on the chip can work to help detect very tiny light levels produced by the bacteria.
The nanolabs can be used to evaluate several biological processes with practical applications, such as microbes in water, stem cells, or breast cancer development. Partnering with other Israeli scientists,
TAU is currently building and commercializing its water-testing mini-labs to measure and monitor how genetically engineered bacteria respond to pollution such as E. Coli in water. Funded by a $3 million grant from the United States Department of Defense Projects Agency (DARPA), the lab-on-a-chip could also become a defense against biological warfare.