Biosensor for detecting estrone and estradiol in environmental samples

Estrogenic contaminants dispersed in the environment are a growing cause for concern. A new biosensor can specifically detect the estrogens estradiol and estrone in environmental samples without the need for specialised laboratories, in a fast, efficient and inexpensive process. The device is available for technology transfer.

The biosensor can detect estrone and estradiol at the sampling point, quickly and effectively. The image shows a detail of an analysed sample; the presence of estrogens is revealed by a change in the colour of the sample.A team from the CSIC's Margarita Salas Centre for Biological Research has developed a biosensor based on a bacterial transcriptional regulator to detect estrogens. The biosensor specifically detects estradiol and estrone. The detection can be carried out at the same place where the sample is taken, quickly and efficiently, without the need for complex and expensive analytical equipment. Results are obtained just mixing the sample of the medium to be analysed with the biosensor, incubating it and then illuminating the mixture with UV light.

The CSIC scientists Beatriz Galán Sicilia, José Luis García López and Juan Ibero Caballero, who developed the biosensor, explain that presence of estrogens triggers a green fluorescence in the sample, visible to the naked eye. The biosensor can analyse different types of environmental samples (water, soil, etc.).

Nowadays, different pharmaceutical formulations contain estrogens. The high consumption of these products means that significant amounts of them eventually end up in the environment, either through excretion - either in urine or faeces - or through the release of the drug into waste or sewage from urban areas or farms.

The estrogens released into the environment, and especially those that reach the aquatic environment, can pollute waters resources (lakes, rivers, aquifers) and ocean. These substances can affect the development and reproduction of living beings, they can cause hormonal alterations nd increase the risk of serious diseases such as cancer. Hence, there is increasing interest in their early control, detection and elimination.


Marta García Del Barrio
Deputy Vice-presidency for
Knowledge Transfer (
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