Researchers want to bring to light trees   Leave a comment


  • The hope of the Glowing Plant Project: a genetically engineered tobacco plant that could be brought to light.  Bio-hacker from the United States now want to create trees that illuminate the streets at night through synthetic biology.  Initial funding for this they already have.
     The hope of the Glowing Plant Project: a genetically engineered tobacco plant that could be brought to light. Bio-hacker from the United States now want to create trees that illuminate the streets at night through synthetic biology. Initial funding for this they already have.

It sounds like a pretty crazy plan: A private research team plans to inject light genes in plants, in order to illuminate the streets at night

Columns of figures flit across the screen, breakthrough inventions of civilization and the Moon Landing rush by, then appeared a man with a black shirt on. In his right hand he holds a light bulb in his left hand an inconspicuous plant.“Why do we need this when we have it?” He says, and puts forward the greenhouse.

Antony Evans is a graduate of Cambridge University and manager of the Glowing Plant Project. His vision: Glow in the Dark plants to make artificial lighting at night superfluous.Evans and his colleagues want to modify in the first step lighting genes from fireflies and then inject it into the genome of Arabidopsis, the favorite plant of plant geneticists.

If it goes to Evans, trees could soon light up entire streets.Light already caused as much CO2 as cars. And the global appetite for energy is growing rapidly, especially in emerging markets. In areas that are insufficiently supplied with electricity, bioluminescent plants could be used effectively.The scientists estimate that only 0.02 percent of the energy that is absorbed for photosynthesis, is sufficient to produce enough light.

The idea is not new: already established in the 1980s, a brilliant plant biotechnologists artificially prepared by a tobacco leaf they added a given gene. When the plant was sprayed with the chemical substrate luciferin, they lit up. The Glowing Plant Project wants to go a few steps – and beyond the university basic research.

Donations for Research

Start-up capital they have ever been worried by swarm Financing: The bio-hackers presented their project on fundraising portal “kickstart” and hoped for 65,000 U.S. dollars. In June, more than 8,000 volunteers had donated $ 484,013. Their hope: If the project is realized, the donors get free seeds of light plants.

The money will now probably it invests to get familiar with the methods of synthetic biology to make design the additional gene sequences necessary for the light-trees. There are now separate companies as the company based in San Francisco Cambrian Genomics. Whether it will actually succeed in the small team of Glowing Plant Project radicalized with the possibilities of genetic engineering to bring trees to light, is questionable. According to experts, a faint glow will be seen in the best case.

The operators of the project is one at least already managed to bring synthetic biology in the United States genetically disrupted in the debate: the environmental organizations ETC Group and Friends of the Earth criticizing the project would create a precedent. Unique bans for what Evans and colleagues pretending there is not in the U.S. anyway (yet).

Uncontrolled, unregulated

Jim Thomas, Research Director of ETC Group, going with the project harshly: “The insane thing is that you randomly scattered hundreds of thousands of seeds – unobserved, uncontrolled and unregulated.” That is the worst way to run synthetic biology.

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