IUSB researcher creates glyphosate-detecting biosensor

April 22, 2020

An Indiana University South Bend researcher and his students developed a biosensor that can detect the presence of a chemical linked to certain types of cancer.

Shahir S. Rizk and his undergraduate students developed a biosensor that can detect glyphosate, a chemical used in Roundup, the world’s most widely used weedkiller.

“Our sensor is based on a protein from bacteria that our lab has re-engineered to bind to glyphosate,” Rizk said. “When glyphosate is detected, the sensor produces a fluorescent light signal that can be detected and used to quantify how much glyphosate is in a sample.”

Glyphosate has been found to increase the risk of developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma by up to 41% and is found in about 95% of all oat-based food.

Despite evidence to the contrary, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has concluded that glyphosate is not a carcinogen and poses no risks to human health when it is used according to the label.

Past administrations instituted a maximum contaminant level of .7 micrograms per liter in drinking water that still applies.

Rizk’s biosensor could speed up the process through which the more than 180 million pounds of glyphosate used annually can be detected. The biosensor would be an improvement over the current process.

“They require bulky lab equipment, and testing large numbers of samples is challenging, costly and time-consuming,” said Rizk. “The fluorescent biosensor can detect in water and soil samples with high specificity. It can also detect it below the federally mandated levels for drinking water in the U.S.”

Rizk said the next step is to find an industry partner to develop the biosensor into a device for glyphosate field detection.

IUSB researcher creates glyphosate-detecting biosensor