"SENSOR: Universal detector updates coal miner's canary"
Researchers at Vanderbilt University have updated the idea of the "canary in the coal mine" with a microphysiometer containing real human cells that reacts quickly to all manner of toxins. Coal miners handled old-school hazards by sending down a caged bird to test for "bad air." Birds react similarly to humans in the presence of arbitrary toxins, but because of their faster metabolism, they react more quickly, thereby offering an early warning. Today, electronic sensors tuned to specific contaminants have all but replaced such broad-stroke early-warning measures. But anti-bioterrorism developers that need to sense arbitrary toxins must either build arrays of sensors for every known substance or go back to the caged-bird model.
Audio Interviews / Text: http://www.eetimes.com/story/OEG20040123S0033