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Glowing Plants: The Street Lights of Future? - SunilNagpal - 06-13-2013

Recently, a highly ambitious project aimed at replacing the streetlamps with glowing trees caught the attention of the entire globe-let alone the biotechnological world! The project, directed by Antony Evans(an MBA with Distinction from INSEAD, an MA in Maths from the University of Cambridge and is a graduate of Singularity University’s GSP program), with Omri Amirav-Drory (PhD, the founder and CEO of Genome Compiler Corp., a synthetic biology venture) and Kyle Taylor (a young scientist with a PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology from Stanford University) in the team, was named as "The Glowing Plant Project".
[Image: glowing_plant_square.jpg]
Logo: Glowing Plant Project (Open Source)

About the Project and How They Claim to Achieve it:
In the words of the Glowing Plant Project team, " The project seeks to engineer the thale cress Arabidopsis thaliana to emit weak, green-blue light by endowing it with genetic circuitry from fireflies. If the non-commercial project succeeds, thousands of supporters will receive seeds to plant the hardy weed wherever they wish." The target sequence of both the luciferase and luciferin were designed in a genome compiling software, which can be printed and inserted in the Arabidopsis thaliana geonome by gene gun.

The group aimed at using this simple and novel ambition as a motivational factor for generating awareness among the common public about synthetic biology and hence decided to launch it on a large scale, wherein the common masses would be delivered the GM Arabidopsis thaliana plantlets that would glow!

In order to achieve this goal, a fund raising campaign was launched that aimed at generating $65,000, so that bulk amounts of designed sequence could be printed for insertion in the plantlets. The fundraiser was held between April 23, 2013-June 7, 2013 and astonishingly collected $484,013 (well above the goal of $65,000!!). Following is an overview of the vision of the team (open source), followed by that there's an interactive video of an interview of the Founder and the Co-Founder of this project, that sheds laboratory details of the project, as described above:
[Image: medium_7MYbDmf0SPq30YMdPlnM]

History of similar attempts:
Making glowing plant is not a new concept. It started in 1980s with the engineering of the world's first glowing plant. It was a tobacco plant with firefly luciferase gene inserted into it. So, when luciferin protein was sprayed onto it, the plant started glowing.
Followed by that, in 1989, Luciferin-Luciferase gene system was sequenced, so now scientists could insert the whole system gene into an organism. Luminous Zebra Fish with such a system became popular in the past. So, was the completely self luminous bacteria engineered by the iGEM team of the University of Cambridge. But, taking it to plants on a self-sustained way, and that too at large scale, was something not thought of in the past!

The Resistance to the Project and The Cause of it:
Though the project has received massive from the public at large, as is evident from the funds raised for the ambitious goal, there are groups (scientific and social), that resist this initiative for some reasons (both scientific and social).

Though on a lighter note, but scientists have put forward the thought that such a GM plant/organism isn't a good tool to light the awareness of the people about the advantages of synthetic biology. Infact, this project would hardly make any good use of synthetic biology for the public at large, a use in treating a disease or food problem, would have served the society better. They regard it as a "publicity garnering'' naive approach to synthetic biology!

Then, there are analysts and scientists working on transgenic organisms who fear a problematic future created by the widespread and open use of such an unusually modified plant. There always exists the uncontrolled flow of genetic information in the wild (especially considering the weed nature of Arabidopsis spp.! And using the plants as streetlamps appear a highly immature idea!

Apart from that, there are plant biologists who doubt the feasibility of the claim of using the glowing plant(s) as streetlamps/sustainable light source, considering the limitations on a plant’s ability to harvest energy from the Sun and convert it back into light. It would be an unusual venting of harvested sunlight back into light energy, which not only seems unfeasible on continuous basis, but also it may pose some abnormalities in normal growth of plant.

The Challenges it Might Face in Execution

There are two key challenges that might face this project:
(i) The first and the foremost is "meeting the expectations of the hype already created". It is very less probable that the plants will sustainably emit light, and that too at levels that might make them useful for night lighting! It needs some hyper expression of the system, which is not possible as per the strategy proposed, at this stage.

(ii) Then there exists the fear of the complete wipe-out of this project by the regulatory affairs, as the team aims at launching it at public scale! And, considering the widespread awareness of this action, those who are against such a move, have already filed complaints against the project's scale.

The project does seem very novel and very exciting considering the scale targeted. With the huge amounts of funds already raised in a very short period of time, the expectations have been peaking over the results of the same. At the same time, there are speculations over the harmful effects of wide-spread use of such a transgenic plant, which might lead to a turnaround of it's prospects. At current stage, it is progressing at a very fast pace, which does bring that very curious question in mind:

"Will the glowing plants really replace the street lamps in near future??"

All I can say is, "Let's see!"

To know all the updates on the project, visit:

RE: Glowing Plants: The Street Lights of Future? - sale0303 - 01-07-2014

The time has come to save the energy we use over the lights. Yes, it has been discovered that plants can glow. The science is engaged in making plants to glow which may replace the existing lights being used in the streets. Omri Amrev is the person who has successfully funded the project of glowing the plants. He said that if we would ask to a common person roaming in the street, he would definitely say no plants cannot glow but if we ask the same query from any scientist, he would surely nod in positive. He has put the name of this project as Kickstarter.

He said that we have termed this technique as “consumer biotechnology” which can also be used for selling purpose. He assures that developing countries facing the enormous challenges of energy crisis and they could utilize this source of energy as an alternate option.

Undoubtedly, the negative impression being created by press over genetic biotechnology could also be suppressed with the help of this discovery. Exactly, the positive solutions being offered by biology should not be neglected. They are in the larger interest of the people but the most unfortunate thing is that people are not well aware of biotechnology in general.

Omri’s project has been applauded by other institute understanding the essence of this technology. These biotech institute have reported to have said that if it is launched and plants are made to glow then billions of people may take benefit from this. On the other hand, the existing energy providing companies are considering it a threat which could grossly affect their business in the market. Omri has said that he wants the world to be glown through plants which could also have worth watching scenario. Since, there are chances of paucity of natural gas, this biological discovery would help the world to light up naturally.

RE: Glowing Plants: The Street Lights of Future? - Stephan Richardson - 08-29-2014

Talking about energy efficiency, this would be one of the best solutions.

RE: Glowing Plants: The Street Lights of Future? - naresh - 01-27-2017

Glowing micro organism that is
Luminescent bacteria are ready to light up the streets of paris in future
Already company named GLOWEE has started work on that lamps but still now that micro organism can work continuously for 3 days only