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Fingerprints on the water

Living organisms respond to pollution by altering their metabolism, respiration and growth rates. By examining the response of specific species, scientists can identify not only the degree of pollution in an ecosystem but its composition in pollutants as well.
Fingerprints on the water
Human activities pollute the ecosystems in peculiar, and random ways. In an attempt to measure and define the effects of this pollution, biomarkers have attracted a great deal of interest by researchers. Biomarkers are organic compounds with behavioural characteristics that have been altered as a result of the presence of different pollutants. The principle behind the biomarker approach is to identify whether or not a certain environment is polluted and what the pollutants are, by analysing the biomarker's physiological or biochemical response when exposed to this environment. Just as fingerprints are unique to an individual, a specific biomarker's response indicates a specific pollutant.

Under the project named Euglenotox, a geochemistry research team at the university of Paris 7 studied the possibility of using Euglena as a biomarker for aquatic environments such as springs, rivers, lakes etc. Euglena is a single-celled eucaryotic organism that lives in the water and its behaviour is influenced by the presence of pollutants. The research team exposed euglena to water samples, which had been polluted with the most common pollutants. The changes to euglena life parameters were studied under various conditions in terms of pollutant concentration, temperature and light. The response of the euglena populations were studied during this exposure and parameters related to metabolism, respiration, chlorophyll contents and photosynthesis were measured.

The study concludes that euglena is an easy handling, low cost biomarker, which proved to be sensitive to most of the common water pollutants. These significant advantages, compared to other organic biomarkers, make the use of euglena as a biomarker an excellent diagnostic tool with remarkable commercial interest.
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