Biologists have turned worms into glowing indicators of air pollution

Scientists at the University of Turku have created genetically engineered worms that emit green light when they interact with air pollutants. The results of a study of animals that can become indicators of air quality are published in the journal Pathogens .

Scientists have modified Caenorhabditis elegans worms to be able to produce green fluorescent protein (GFP) in the presence of black mold spores, a health hazard. These animals are no more than a millimeter long and can smell or taste many biological compounds. Previously, they were used to monitor concentrations of heavy metals in the environment.

In experiments, scientists showed that the worms glowed in the presence of black mold spores, components of cleaning products and plastic decay products in the air. The worms became less active, and some of them even died.

The scientists noted that the worms cannot tell what toxic compounds are in the air, but they can signal the need for more thorough examination of the air.

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