Imagine walking down the street at night, your pathway illuminated not by buzzing, harsh street lights, but instead by the warm glow of the trees lighting the road. Or an intimate dinner with your sweetie, illuminated not by candlelight, but by the bouquet of roses on the table between you. We may be quite some time away from seeing such a reality, but the latter is a lot closer than you might think, thanks to the work of biochemist Omri Amirav-Drory, molecular biologist Kyle Taylor, and mathematician Antony Evans, whose Glowing Plant Project on Kickstarter has already generated nearly a quarter-million dollars in pledges in just a week.
Mind you, this Glowing Plant Project in particular isn’t for the development of 14,000-lumen oak trees, so your nocturnal walks will still be accompanied by humming sodium vapor lamps, but that rose-lit dinner may be a reality as early next year. What the team is seeking funding for specifically is the printing of genetic sequences, which at present costs about twenty-five cents per base pair. From there…
Transforming the plant will initially be done using the Agrobacterium method. Our printed DNA will be inserted into a special type of bacteria which can insert its DNA into the plant. Flowers of the plant are then dipped into a solution containing the transformed bacteria. The bacteria injects our DNA into the cell nucleus of the flowers which pass it onto their seeds which we can grow until they glow!
The specific glowing plant in question is Arabidopsis, a small, inedible member of the mustard family. But if the team hits its first stretch goal of $400,000 (and with thirty days left, that seems highly likely), backers at the $150 level will receive — you guessed it — glowing rose plants.
How glowing, you ask? Well, this is science, after all, not magic, so there’s a good bit of uncertainty involved. From the Risks & Challenges section of the Glowing Plant Project page:
We are confident that we can deliver on the rewards we are offering backers. There are two main risks to the project:
We have put every care into the designs of the DNA but we may not get the glowing result we (and you) hope for. Biology is complicated and while we are confident of getting some glowing effect (it’s been done before in a research lab) we may not get a strong effect as we (or you) want or it may be unreliable. We hope to have a plant which you can visibly see in the dark (like glow in the dark paint) but don’t expect to replace your light bulbs with version 1.0. The more money we raise, the more we can refine our designs and the stronger the effect we will get so please tell all your friends about the project.
2) Emerging regulation
We have received written indication from USDA/APHIS that our plant will not require a permit. However this is a new field and it is possible that more restrictive regulations are implemented during the project that will require us to get a permit which would delay the release of the seeds or possibly block the release altogether.