Scientists have been trying to create glowing flora artificially for some time now. Are you wondering why? Well, we don’t know either, but a new bioengineering project actually has what it takes to be successful and create a glowing plant that can provide a sustainable light source.
The Glowing Plant Project is already a big hit on Kickstarter, where it raised four times more funds than its initial goal of $65,000. It is currently at over $264,000, with about 4,600 backers, and one more month to go. The team is now hoping to raise $400,000 in order to expand its research.
The research team, headed by synthetic biologist Omri Amirav-Drory, tech entrepreneur Antony Evans and botany expert Kyle Taylor, is planning to create bioluminescent plants that can glow bright enough to be clearly seen in the dark, with the help of improved DNA sequencing and printing.
The project is inspired by firefly DNA. Researchers will take luciferase, a protein commonly found in fireflies and other glowing bacteria, and break it down to create luciferin. Researchers have already designed the necessary DNA sequences to inject the plants, with the help of the Genome Complier program. In the final stage, the DNA will be printed and transferred to the plants.
Researchers will begin the process with a small plant named Arabidopsis, which was chosen because it is easy to experiment with and has virtually no risk of spreading into the wild. The first stage is known as the Agrobacterium method: the synthetic DNA will be inserted in a special kind of bacteria which can pass on its own DNA to the plant. The plant’s flowers will be then dipped into a solution that contains the bacteria in question. The bacteria will inject their DNA into the plant, and from here it reaches the seeds, which will then grow into glowing plants.
It is unclear how much light the plants will produce, at least in the first stages of experimentation. Scientists are hoping to be able to pre-set the intensity of the light and even the color of the glow in the future. If the project meets its $400,000 stretch goal, the team will start working on creating a glowing rose, as a more commercially appealing alternative to the Arabidopsis.
The results of the process will be released open source. The rewards offered to Kickstarter backers already include a DIY kit to transform your own plant or even the possibility of having a message inscribed in the DNA of the plant.
[Image via Glowing plant]