Spectacular Glow-In-The Dark Plants May Soon Be Lighting Up Your Homes

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Scientists created glow-in-the-dark plants by using DNA from bioluminescent mushrooms (Credit: Planta/MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences)

Over the years, there have been numerous attempts to create "glow-in-the-dark" plants. However, none of the approaches — which included infusing plants with nanoparticles of the luciferins and enzymes needed for the phenomenon to occur, or incorporating them with bacterial bioluminescence genes – proved feasible.

The attempts either resulted in dimly-lit flora, negatively impacted the plant's health, or were too expensive and cumbersome to implement on a large scale. Now, a team of Russian and British scientists has found a way to grow sustainable glowing plants by naturally altering their DNA.

The tobacco flowers emitted the most light (Credit: Planta/ MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences)

Karen Sarkisyan from the London Institute of Medical Sciences and Ilia Yampolsky of the Russian Academy of Sciences began by inserting four genes from a bioluminescent mushroom called Neonothopanus nambi into the DNA of tobacco plants. The genes were all related to enzymes that help the fungi convert caffeic acid, which is naturally present in all plants, into luciferin that emits energy as light. More importantly, the enzymes turned the resulting substance back into caffeic acid, allowing the cycle to repeat forever.

The resulting plants projected a greenish hue that was about ten times brighter than that produced by plants infused with bioluminescent bacterial genes. Though the entire plant lit up, the flowers put up the most dazzling light show. "They glow both in the dark and in the daylight," said Sarkisyan. While the study was conducted on tobacco plants, the scientists assert the method can be easily used in other plants as well.

Photos of a glowing tobacco plant in ambient light and in the dark (Credit: Planta/ MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences)

The team, who published the findings in the journal Nature Biotechnology on April 27, 2020, believe that once perfected, the bioluminescent flora would be a fun and useful addition to any household. They think the glowing greenery will also allow researchers to explore the inner-workings of plants more effectively. “In the future, this technology can be used to visualize activities of different hormones inside the plants over the lifetime of the plant in different tissues, absolutely non-invasively. It can also be used to monitor plant responses to various stresses and changes in the environment, such as drought or wounding by herbivores,” Sarkisyan told The Guardian.

Resources: theguardian.com,gizmodo.com,cen.acs.org

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108 Comments
  • meow_meowka
    meow_meowkaMonday, August 3, 2020 at 3:26 pm
    We can use plants instead of lights for the dark! Less pollution!
    • spiky177
      spiky177Monday, August 3, 2020 at 10:40 am
      That’s awesome
      • graycat
        graycatFriday, July 31, 2020 at 8:32 pm
        I love studying plants and it would be cool to imagine the possibilities we can do with this plant maybe they'll be using this instead of street lights to save money and the earth's natural resources.
        • evie-da-queen
          evie-da-queenFriday, July 31, 2020 at 5:57 pm
          Wow this is really cool. I would have these everywhere around the house.
          • animereina2020
            animereina2020Thursday, July 30, 2020 at 8:10 am
            I think it would be perfect for people who are fond of reptiles and snakes, because the light gives it that atmosphere. One of my friends back at Georgia watched this YouTube channel called "Snake Discovery" . I think it would be a great idea!
            • dogo_maniac
              dogo_maniacThursday, July 30, 2020 at 7:31 am
              Wow! I agree with @meeeeeeeee3 I would definitely want one in my room.
              • bidas
                bidasWednesday, July 29, 2020 at 11:46 pm
                that's so amazing
                • octopus1234
                  octopus1234Wednesday, July 29, 2020 at 4:07 pm
                  I would love to have one plant like that! It would be so cool! It could even be a light! Just don't put it in the bedroom, it will not let us sleep.
                  • meeeeeeeeee3
                    meeeeeeeeee3Wednesday, July 29, 2020 at 1:17 pm
                    I would have those in my room.
                    • kelsingra
                      kelsingraWednesday, July 29, 2020 at 11:18 am
                      I think it would be a great idea to eventually have plants that glow in your house instead of nightlights. (That have plastic, take electricity, etc.)