A unique silicon potentiometric sensor, now in its final stages of development, will give researchers an innovative tool for monitoring the effects of drugs, toxic agents, enzymes, and other substances in mammalian and bacterial tissue cultures. The device, called a silicon microphysiometer, uses photocurrent technology to measure cells' real-time metabolic responses to physical and chemical stimuli (Entrepreneur Briefs, The Scientist, Nov. 13, 1989, page 11). One feature that is certain to be a major benefit to users is the microphysiometer's ability to operate with a sample size as small as 1,000 cells.

The sensor, expected to be commercially available next year, will enable scientists to conduct a variety of tests, some of which were previously impossible. New research avenues that the device is likely to open include an in vitro adjunct to the Draize ocular irritancy test and a screen for the efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents in human cells....

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