A houseplant with an added rabbit gene might be able to help lower indoor air pollution, the Guardian reports.
It notes chloroform and benzene can accumulate indoors as byproducts of showering with chlorinated water and smoking, respectively, both of which, in high enough concentrations, could be toxic. Researchers from the University of Washington engineered a common houseplant, Epipremnum aureum or pothos ivy, to utilize the mammalian cytochrome P450 2e1 gene, which typically enables mammals to break down a number of chemicals.
Using a plasmid vector, the UW team delivered P450 2e1 alongside an enhanced green fluorescent protein gene and a hygromycin-resistance gene to pathos ivy, as they report in Environmental Science & Technology. When they exposed these engineered plants to chloroform and benzene, the researchers found chloroform to be nearly undetectable after six days, while benzene levels fell by about 75 percent after eight days. Unmodified plants, meanwhile, had no effect on chloroform or benzene levels.
The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology's Laurence Jones notes at the Guardian that more work is needed to see how the plants fare outside a lab setting.