A Houseplant with Rabbit DNA to Detoxify Indoor Air

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Researchers from the University of Washington have found they could boost the detoxing ability of a common houseplant by splicing in a bit of rabbit DNA

In a study published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, the team describes how it introduced the mammalian gene CYP2E1 to the plant pothos ivy. This gene encodes an enzyme that breaks down many toxins commonly found in the home, including benzene and chloroform.

After splicing rabbit CYP2E1 into the plant’s genome, the researchers placed the growing plant into a closed container. Then, they injected either benzene or chloroform gas into the container. Other containers with unmodified plants or no plants at all served as the controls.

After three days, the concentrations of gas in the containers with the plants modified with rabbit DNA dropped dramatically. After eight days, the researchers could barely even detect the chloroform. The concentrations of toxins in the containers with the unmodified plants or no plants at all, however, remained unchanged.

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