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Taking the Nerve Out of Terrorism

NCJ Number
Date Published
3 pages
This article describes the technology of a device under development that can be worn by law enforcement officers and other first responders to warn them of the presence of nerve agents well before their effects can be damaging to humans.
This project is a collaborative effort of the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the Technical Support Working Group, and TIAX LLC, a collaborative research and development company. The prototype personal monitor, which can be worn on a belt and costs about $100 per unit, may be available by the end of 2005. The nerve-agent detection device constantly measures the activity of an AChE (the enzyme acetylcholinesterase) sample immobilized in porous plastic. AChE is one of the body's enzymes attacked by a nerve agent. When the AChE sample in the device is active, the reagent is bright yellow; however, if exposed to a nerve agent, the reagent becomes clear and an alarm sounds. When the wearer hears the alarm, he/she can also check a visual indicator to confirm the presence of a nerve agent. The AChE enzyme used is specific to nerve-type toxins, thus reducing the possibility of false alarms. The alarm is set at the level of the initial physiological response to a nerve agent, giving the wearer time to assess and react to the threat.

Date Published: January 1, 2005