Written by Janelle Francis
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With continual controversy over airport security and the new TSA body scans, the Israel start-up company, BioExplorers, has developed a technology combining the senses of mice and a high-tech machine. Eran Lumbroso came up with the notion of using mice to detect explosives while serving as a major in Israeli Navy, where he led secret R&D projects. Along with his brother, who is also a major in the Israeli Navy, he founded BioExplorers.
  
This unconventional solution is based on the premise that mice have highly sensitive olfactory senses that have evolved over millions of years. Generally dogs are used for explosive and drug detection, but mice actually have 364 more olfactory receptor genes than dogs which results in a greater sense of smell.  The detector system will contain several enclosures that with hold between 4 and 8 mice, as well a machine that looks like the typical metal detector. The mice  will have 4- hour shifts where they will be exposed to the air that passed over each person who walks through the archway. If the mice pick up a scent of an explosive, they run to a side chamber, which sounds an alarm immediately.  The average detection time is between three and six seconds.  The mice will have a working life of eighteen months as well as a ten-day training on different odors. 
 
According to Lumbroso, the advantages of his system are the  reliability of animal explosive-detection capabilities, consistency, and low  cost.  The company ran its first field tests at Azrieli Center, a large mall in Tel Aviv, where more than 1000 people passed through the detector. Lumbroso had 22 mock explosives planted on various people and all were detected. Although they still have some logistical and ethical hurdles to get through, their novel idea is grabbing the attention of those in the Home Land Security market.


 


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