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Caffeine Test

June 14, 2006

Llamas may soon help you test whether that decaf your server just poured is really decaf.


Of llamas and caffeine. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A handy caffeine detector for beverages may be on the way – courtesy of a llama. Why a llama? Well, along with camels, they’re among the few species that make antibodies to caffeine that can withstand high temperatures. Protein chemist Daniel Crimmins and his colleagues at Washington University in St. Louis were able to use those antibodies to detect the caffeine in a hot cup of coffee.

DANIEL CRIMMINS (Washington University in St. Louis):
And then, no longer needing to schlep around the camel or the llama to our favorite coffeehouse to do the measurement, we cloned the antibody sequence, so we could make as much as we needed to.

A llama named Very Senorita had the toughest antibodies, so they’re using hers to develop a commercial product for home use.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.