Sydney, Oct 16 (IANS) A genetically modified mouse has been created by US scientists to help detect landmines.
They hope the GM mouse, known as MouSensor, could become a useful tool in dealing with landmines, the Sydney Morning Herald reported Tuesday.
"Long after wars have ended, communities are still impeded from going back to their daily activities because of all these mines still affecting their land," said Charlotte D'Hulst of Hunter College, New York, who led the team that developed the mouse.
Over 70 countries are contaminated by unexploded landmines.
One approach to clearing landmines is to use HeroRats, giant pouched rats that are trained to sniff out landmines by the Belgian NGO Apopo.
Two of these, with a human handler, can clear an area of 300 square metres in under two hours. It would take two people about two days to do the same. But the HeroRats need about nine months of training, the newspaper said.
D'Hulst wanted to improve on the HeroRats concept by creating a genetically modified "supersniffer" mouse, sensitive to the specific odour of the explosives in landmines, TNT.
Scientists recently found a receptor in the mouse's olfactory bulb that specifically recognises a chemical called DNT - a less explosive but similar-smelling version of TNT.
So far, the mouse has not been tested in the field and D'Hulst has yet to work out the best landmine-clearing protocol for her MouSensors, the daily said.
Once the location of a landmine had been identified, a bomb-disposal expert could go in and neutralise it in the normal way.
The mouse itself would be safe from the landmine, since it would be too small to trigger an explosion.