GMO Houseplant Cleans Your Air

A genetically modified houseplant can remove chloroform and benzene from the air around it. The modified plants express a mammalian protein, called 2E1, that transforms these compounds into molecules that the plants can then use to support their own growth.

Small molecules like chloroform, which is present in small amounts in chlorinated water, or benzene, which is a component of gasoline, build up in our homes when we shower or boil water, or when we store cars or lawn mowers in attached garages. These compounds are too small to be captured by even HEPA air filters and exposure to each has been 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,” noted senior study investigator Stuart Strand, Ph.D., a research professor in the UW’s civil and environmental engineering department. “Now we’ve engineered houseplants to remove these pollutants for us.”

SF fans may recall the scooters from Gregory Benford's stark classic Against Infinity, a 1983 novel in which genetically modified organisms were used to soak up ammonia-based compounds and digest them, producing oxygen-bearing compounds useful to human beings.

Via Greatly Enhanced Removal of Volatile Organic Carcinogens by a Genetically Modified Houseplant, Pothos Ivy and Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News.

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