Three biologists have come up with a radical idea to light our city streets – use glow-in-the-dark trees!
Antony Evans and his colleagues Omri Amirav-Drory and Kyle Taylor, from San Francisco, want to create trees that shine at night. They have posted a video to Kickstarter, explaining how they plan to use genetic engineering to insert genes from bioluminescent bacteria into flora as the first step to growing luminescent trees.
This crazy scientific plans isn’t as freaky as it sounds. In the 1980s scientists first genetically engineered a glow-in-the-dark plants when they inserted firefly genes into a tobacco plant. So it is pretty well developed technology argues Evans.
The first time, I think, was just a demonstration project. But scientists have used it since to study things like root growth. They really use it for basic research purposes.Traditionally, what they’ve done is insert the gene for luciferase [an enzyme from a luminescent organism] along with a promoter [a region at the beginning of a gene that tells a cell to start transcription, the first step to producing a protein] and then add the luciferin [a chemical that produces light when oxidized] manually. They have even had these glowing plants up on the International Space Station, so it is a pretty well established technique.
Although don’t expect trees to be lighting up your street any time soon.
We do think it should be viable, but it is definitely a long-term goal. The big challenge with the trees is that trees take a long time to grow. Doing experiments on trees and testing different promoters will take a long time. We really need one of a few different technologies to come out. One would be a better simulation technology, so that we could simulate the gene sequences on a computer. Two would be a bio printer or something similar, so that we could print a leaf and test realistically the sequences on the leaf instead of having to wait for a whole tree to grow.