Rainbow Poo Coming to a Toilet Bowl Near You
Though its certainly not filled with gold, turns out there is a pot at the end of the rainbow, and it's made of porcelain.
For years, sagely, health-conscious individuals have read the contents of toilet bowls, seeking oracles of good or bad health. But never before has this practice been more colorful.
Scientists have genetically engineered E. coli bacteria to work safely as a biosensor that can detect the presence of toxins and secret an indicator pigment. The synthetically engineered bacteria (which has had its bad bacteria parts removed) could be used to test water or air samples for pollutants such as arsenic or carbon dioxide. Arsenic in the water, the sample turn blue, for example. But that's not all.
By the year 2039, the scientists -- who hail from Cambridge University -- think that their so-called E. Chromi could be mixed in with a special probiotic yogurt, which when eaten, would colonize the bowels and release pigments in the presence of diseases such as cancer, stomach ulcers and salmonella. If your poo was green, for example, you might have an ulcer, or if it turned orange, you may want to get tested for colon cancer.
The scientists designed E. Chomi using standardized sequences of DNA, known as BioBricks, and inserted them into E. coli bacteria. In 2009, they won the Grand Prize at the International Genetically Engineered Machine Competition (iGEM). Since then, the original team from Cambridge University in the UK has joined with designers Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg and James King to explore the possibilities of their technology.