GM houseplant sucks cancer-linked chemicals from the air

GM houseplant sucks cancer-linked chemicals from the air

GM houseplant sucks cancer-linked chemicals from the air

Using DNA from a rabbit, scientists have genetically modified a houseplant so that it helps to remove risky chemicals from our homes.

Taking a synthetic form of the rabbit gene P450 2e1 and inserting it into a plant called devil's ivy (Epipremnum aureum) the researchers made a plant that functions nearly like a liver, removing harmful chemicals from the air.

Artificial filters can not remove, for example, benzene and chloroform, which prior studies have linked to cancer.

"People haven't really been talking about these hazardous organic compounds in homes, and I think that's because we couldn't do anything about them", study senior author Stuart Strand said in a university news release. The modified ivy was able to remove chloroform and benzene, both of which have been linked to cancer, from the atmosphere far more effectively than the unaltered variety.... But some hazardous compounds are too small for these filters to trap.

The researchers developed a synthetic version of the gene and through slow and complicated measures eventually introduce it to the pothos ivy so that every cell in the plant expressed the protein.

The scientists got their inspiration from nature by focusing on a protein called cytochrome P450 2E1, or 2E1 for short. But the modified plants changed the concentration of chloroform dramatically inside the tube, making it drop by 82 percent just after three days.

The researchers are now planning on performing additional tests to see what other chemicals the plants might be good at clearing out of the air. They also help clean the air. The benzene concentration, meanwhile, dropped by about 75 percent after eight days.

Findings, published in Environmental Science and Technology, showed that for the unmodified plants, the concentration of either gas did not change over time.

The researchers restrict that in the experiments used concentrations of pollutants were, for technical reasons, approximately a Million Times higher than in normal room air. They might even fall faster over the same time frame.

Long Zhang puts a pothos ivy plant into a glass tube to test its ability to break down benzene or chloroform.

All that would be needed is a fan close by to help increase the airflow so the plant can filter more of the air in a room. "But without air flow, it takes a very long time, until a molecule from the other corner of the house comes to the Plant".

For plants in our homes to effectively remove harmful molecules from the air, they would need to be inside an enclosure. Formaldehyde is present in tobacco smoke, laminate flooring, cabinets, and other wood products. "Without proteins to break down these molecules, we'd have to use high-energy processes to do it".

Amazon Catalyst at UW, the National Science Foundation, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences funded the study.

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