Genetically Modified Plant Can Purify Air In The Houses

Posted: Dec 21 2018, 9:05am CST | by , Updated: Dec 21 2018, 11:08am CST, in Latest Science News


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Modified Plant can Purify Air in the Houses
Credit: Mark Stone/University of Washington

Researchers have introduced a protein from rabbit into a common houseplant that absorb toxins and can improve indoor air quality.

Air quality in indoor environment is becoming a major health concern. As toxic gases from different sources build up inside homes, they can cause illnesses to people who are exposed to these particular harmful compounds. But researchers report that a genetically modified houseplant can efficiently remove at least two toxins from the air.

People often use HEPA air filters to keep harmful indoor pollutants at bay. But some compounds are too small to be trapped in these filters. For instance, small molecules like chloroform or benzene come from cooking, showering and smoking and exposure to both these gases have been linked to cancer.

Indoor plants can also improve air quality through several mechanisms, but the problem with plants that are capable of doing this is that they aren't very efficient. Now, researchers at the University of Washington have genetically modified a common houseplant pothos ivy to remove chloroform and benzene from the air around it. Altered plant contains a protein called 2E1 that breaks down a wide range of organic compounds found in the homes that plants can then use to support their own growth. In this way, houseplants not only add a certain aesthetic value to homes but can also make indoor air cleaner and safer.

"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. Now we've engineered houseplants to remove these pollutants for us." Researcher Stuart Strand from University of Washington’s civil and environmental engineering department, said in a statement.

Protein called cytochrome P450 2E1, or 2E1 for short, is present in all mammals including humans. In the experiment, researchers introduced rabbit CYP2E1 to the ivy's genome. Then, they put both modified and unmodified plants in glass tubes and added either benzene or chloroform gas into each tube so they can test their ability to remove toxic gases. For the unmodified plants, concentration of each pollutant did not change over time. But for the modified plants, the concentration of harmful compounds dropped by 82 percent after three days and by 8 days, it was barely detectable.

"If you had a plant growing in the corner of a room, it will have some effect in that room. But without air flow, it will take a long time for a molecule on the other end of the house to reach the plant,” said Strand. “Without proteins to break down these molecules, we'd have to use high-energy processes to do it. It's so much simpler and more sustainable to put these proteins all together in a houseplant."

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<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/47" rel="author">Hira Bashir</a>
The latest discoveries in science are the passion of Hira Bashir (). With years of experience, she is able to spot the most interesting new achievements of scientists around the world and cover them in easy to understand reporting.




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