Wellington: A team of researchers has developed a new sensor that can detect low levels of female hormone estrogen in liquids.
The sensor sends an electronic signal is the presence of estrogen and can soon test the level of the hormone in bodily fluids like saliva or test waterways for estrogen contamination that may pose a risk to humans and the environment.
Estrogen is one of the main hormones that regulates the female reproductive system.
It can be monitored to track human fertility and is sometimes administered to livestock like cows and sheep to control the reproductive cycle.
The sensor, developed by the researchers from Victoria University of Wellington, has a simple design and gives real-time readings.
It can be integrated into an electronic monitoring system and uses very little power unlike other detection methods.
The devices uses small snippets of DNA called aptamers to latch onto estrogen molecules.
"Aptamers are a potentially powerful tool for sensors because they are versatile and selective," said Natalie Plank, researcher who studies nanomaterial device fabrication.
Aptamers are developed through a process similar to natural selection.
From a diverse starting population of different DNA or RNA nucleotide sequences, the ones that bind best to the target molecule are selectively enriched, and the process is repeated over multiple "generations".
The team plans to test the device in a more complex set-up, for example with an actual biological fluid like urine that has many dissolved components.
The paper appeared in the Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology B.
The results were published in the open-access research journal Frontiers in Psychology.