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Cancer: Gut microbes can be engineered to look for tumours

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DNA profile from a human sample

TEK IMAGE/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

An engineered bacterium in the gut of an animal has successfully detected the presence of a specific DNA sequence for the first time. The approach could be used to create living sensors that provide early warnings of cancers or dangerous pathogens.

“It is perfect for the detection of cancer and precancer throughout the entire gastrointestinal tract,” says team leader Jeff Hasty at the University of California, San Diego.

Many groups are developing various kinds of biosensors for detecting chemicals, but ones that could spot specific …

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