When we think about the future, many of us think about how cities and civilization will have changed; perhaps we imagine flying cars or impossibly tall buildings, cities in the sky or a home away from Earth. But when some people think of the future, they think of the plants—and they imagine them as a sustainable light source.
Fireflies and glowing fungi have in their DNA an enzyme called luciferase. As it turns out, when that enzyme is placed into the genetic sequence for plants they begin to glow as well. This isn’t necessarily a new concept; scientists made a tobacco plant glow back in the 1980s. But this time around, the researchers want the concept to catch on commercially.
The best part is that the project aims to do so in order to provide a sustainable light source without using any energy. Just imagine—instead of walking down the street at night surrounded by streetlights, you could instead be surrounded by glowing trees. Never in my musings about the future have I considered that as a possibility.
The Kickstarter project, headed by Anthony Evans of San Francisco, is called “Glowing Plants: Natural Lighting with no Electricity,” and has already raised $252,075 of its original goal of $65,000. Backers can receive glowing plant seeds of their own, a glowing plant t-shirt, an actual glowing plant, and much more.
Stanford educated scientists Omri Amirav-Drory and Kyle Taylor lead the research team. Their initial experiment will transplant the glowing gene into the Arabidopsis plant, which is both easy to experiment with and will not easily spread into the wild. In the future, they hope to create a glowing rose, which they believe will be more appealing to consumers.
Using Genome Compiler, Amirav-Drory and Taylor have already mapped out the luciferase DNA sequence. After that, they have the DNA printed and sent to them. The final step is to transfer the genes to agrobacteria and then plants. Any seeds sent out will be coated with the DNA using a gene gun.
Will this project propel plants into the future? Will we be able to walk through glowing forests in ten, fifteen, or twenty years’ time? Nothing is for certain, but we like the possibilities this endeavor presents, especially for the green-minded person. Who wouldn’t like a glowing garden?