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Artificial Enzyme-Powered Microfish for Water-Quality Testing

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posted on 22.01.2013, 00:00 by Jahir Orozco, Victor García-Gradilla, Mattia D’Agostino, Wei Gao, Allan Cortés, Joseph Wang
We present a novel micromotor-based strategy for water-quality testing based on changes in the propulsion behavior of artificial biocatalytic microswimmers in the presence of aquatic pollutants. The new micromotor toxicity testing concept mimics live-fish water testing and relies on the toxin-induced inhibition of the enzyme catalase, responsible for the biocatalytic bubble propulsion of tubular microengines. The locomotion and survival of the artificial microfish are thus impaired by exposure to a broad range of contaminants, that lead to distinct time-dependent irreversible losses in the catalase activity, and hence of the propulsion behavior. Such use of enzyme-powered biocompatible polymeric (PEDOT)/Au-catalase tubular microengine offers highly sensitive direct optical visualization of changes in the swimming behavior in the presence of common contaminants and hence to a direct real-time assessment of the water quality. Quantitative data on the adverse effects of the various toxins upon the swimming behavior of the enzyme-powered artificial swimmer are obtained by estimating common ecotoxicological parameters, including the EC50 (exposure concentration causing 50% attenuation of the microfish locomotion) and the swimmer survival time (lifetime expectancy). Such novel use of artificial microfish addresses major standardization and reproducibility problems as well as ethical concerns associated with live-fish toxicity assays and hence offers an attractive alternative to the common use of aquatic organisms for water-quality testing.

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