Genetically-modified mouse to sniff out landmines


The MouSensor is a lab mouse genetically-engineered to sniff out land mines. Mice have already been trained to find explosives by scent but according to Hunter College biologist Charlotte D'Hulst, the MouSensor is ultra sensitive to the odor of TNT. From The Guardian:

Given its extreme sensitivity to TNT, the mouse would probably have some sort of seizure when it sniffed explosives, said D'Hulst, because so many neurons in its olfactory bulb would be firing at once. And that seizure might be detectable by some device implanted into the mouse.

"We are thinking along the lines of implanting a chip under the skin of these animals that would wirelessly report back to a computer when the animal's behaviour is changing upon being triggered by a TNT landmine," said D'Hulst. 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.

"GM mouse created to detect landmines"


  1. One does wonder at the possible success of this research given the subtleties in detection that must be worked out, like the word ‘seizures’. 

    Then there’s the possibility of false positives:

    ‘However, developing a GM mouse that could detect them would not be a trivial task – researchers would first have to identify the neurons in the mouse’s olfactory bulb that detected the TB odour in question (from the millions of possibilities in the mouse’s nose) and then identify and modify the correct parts of the genome to create their desired biological sensor.’

    Still, if one little mousie can narrow the scope of the search for hidden bombs, and save thousands yearly from death and mutilation when they step on landmines, I sincerely hope these researchers succeed.

  2. “The mouse itself would be safe from the landmine, since it would be too small to trigger an explosion”

    I may be alone in thinking the seizures are actually a little crueler than blowing the mouse up.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. And if this is what the mouse has been trained/genetically altered for, then it’s assumed that it will be repeatedly and frequently sent into the field for work. Well, until it eventually dies from the physical strain.
      I mean, I know that humans using animal sentinels is hardly a new thing: the most obvious example would be canaries used to test air quality in the tunnels of mines. 

      But I still think it’s a pretty fucked up practice. Especially when you are literally tinkering with a creature’s genes to make it intolerant–and to such a volatile degree–of a substance that you are regularly sending it into contact with.

    2. “So, professor, this mouse that’s having continuous seizures while within scent range of the TNT… Who goes in to take it back to the lab?”

  3. “Pinky – are you pondering what I’m pondering?”
    “I think so, Brain … but why is it called a ‘landmine’? Wouldn’t it be a ‘landyours’ if you saw it first?”

  4. What we need here are some tiny white jumpers with “DM” emblazoned on the front.  Very small eyepatches.  Also genetically modified, bumbling bespectle’d hamster sidekicks.

  5. So if they know where to let the mouse go, then they already know where the mine is, or else they need someone to track and follow the mouse. Then what happens if there is more than one mine? More mice that stand still when they find a mine? Must be parts of the idea/story untold. Sounds like great cartoon material though.

  6. Isn’t this a kind of slavery? What world is this that we would genetically modify animals rather than morally modify ourselves? Can we genetically modify humans to stop creating and and planting landmines?

  7. The landmine-sensitive flowers that had blossoms that turned a different colour in the vicinity of bombs planted below their roots were a far more elegant solution than torturing mice. The flowers solution makes mice look like overkill. Too complicated. Too much overhead. Sadly, I learn the flowers program has been discontinued for business reasons.

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