Ordinary things are being bio-engineered to do extraordinary tasks. You may think roaches and mice are revolting, but if they can help detect bioweapons, you may actually want to have them around in the future.

Michael Stroh writes in Popular Science that materials scientist Jeff Brinker has come up with a way for roaches to detect biological weapons. He says, "It’s a very durable beast. Plus they tend to explore nooks and crannies." He glued a genetically-modified yeast cell solution called Sol-Gel to the bugs’ bodies that glows when they encounter something harmful.

He’s created a form of yeast that glows green in the presence of cholera by combining cholera-sensitive genes with a glowing jellyfish gene. Now he’s working on a yeast that will detect anthrax and other toxins.
MIT scientists have engineered mouse cells that light up in the presence of smallpox and anthrax. The question is, will we have to tolerate having mice in the kitchen, or can these cells be used in other ways?

We recently told you how to clean up pollution with spinach. Now Danish scientists have developed a genetically-modified form of watercress that turns from green to red when its roots come in contact with unexploded landmines. Landmines aren’t a big problem in the U.S., but they cause around 26,000 cases of maiming or death every year, and it’s estimated that there are about 100 million unexploded landmines around the world. Since it’s dangerous for people or farm equipment to enter fields with suspected landmines in them, the seeds of the special cress can be sown by a crop duster.

Here’s something else that?s new: Compared to the children of 50 years ago, your kids are near-geniuses. PMH Atwater tells the wonderful story of how our kids are evolving right before our eyes.

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