1. Health & Lifestyle

How Genetically Modified Plants can remove Cancer-Causing Pollutants from your Home?

Abha Toppo
Abha Toppo

There is a good news for all!! Researchers have genetically modified an ordinary houseplant to remove cancer-causing pollutants from your house.

While a range of air filters in your home can ward off allergens and dust particles, some dangerous compounds are too small to be trapped in these filters.

Small molecules such as chloroform that is present in little amounts in chlorinated water or benzene - a component of gasoline, build up in homes when you boil water or when you store cars or lawn mowers in joined garages.

It must be noted that benzene and chloroform exposure have been connected to cancer.

Scientists at the University of Washington have genetically modified a-common houseplant known as pothos ivy to eliminate chloroform and benzene from the atmosphere. The modified plants express a protein, termed 2E1 that changes these compounds into molecules that the plants can subsequently use to support their own growth, as per the study published in the Environmental Science & Technology journal.

A research professor at University of Washington, Stuart Strand said, “People have not talked about these dangerous organic compounds in homes, and I think that is why we could not do anything about them”. He said, “But now we have engineered houseplants to take away these contaminants for us”.

The group decided to use a protein known as cytochrome P450 2E1 that is present in all mammals, including human beings. In human bodies, 2E1 converts benzene into a chemical called phenol and chloroform into carbon dioxide and chloride ions.

Nevertheless, 2E1 is placed in the livers and is turned on when you drink alcohol. Hence it is not available to help you process pollutants in the air. The professor said, “We decided to have this reaction take place outside of the body in a plant”.  

Moreover 2E1 will be beneficial for the plant also. He added that “plants use carbon dioxide and chloride ions to prepare food and also utilize phenol to help make components of their cell walls”.

The researchers have created a synthetic version of the gene that serves as directions for making the rabbit form of 2E1. After that they introduced it into pothos ivy so that every cell in the plant expresses protein.

As the pothos ivy does not bloom in temperate climates so the genetically modified plants will not be able to spread via pollen.

He said plants in the home must be inside an enclosure with something to move air past their leaves, similar to a fan.

The group is presently working to raise the plants’ capabilities by adding a protein that can break another dangerous molecule found in the air at home – formaldehyde - present in some wood products, for example laminate flooring and cabinets etc.

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