A team of scientists have genetically engineered a tobacco plant in order to effectively clean out toxins found in pond scum. This may someday provide another use for the plant known to cause diseases in people by way of cigarettes and smoking. Thanks to the researchers from the UK, the tobacco plant can be used to help clean up the environment by getting rid of toxins found in ponds.
Scientists from the University of London have genetically altered a tobacco plant in order to produce an antibody for microcystin-LR or MC-LR, more commonly known as pond scum. MC-LR is a toxin that makes water unsafe for human use. The scientists inserted a gene that produces the anti-body into the tobacco plant. The genetically altered tobacco then started producing the antibodies on its leaves and secreted it from its roots and into the surrounding growth medium of the plant.
When the scientists introduced MC-LR toxins into the plant’s surrounding growth medium, the antibodies from the tobacco plant bonded with the toxin, rendering it harmless.
The genetically engineered tobacco plants is probably the first instance where a transgenic plant was able to express an antibody that combats an environmental toxin. According to Pascal M.W. Drake, Ph.D., co-author of the study, from the Centre for Infection at St. George’s University of London, "We hope that our study will ultimately lead to a reduction in the exposure of humans, livestock, and wildlife to environmental pollutants." Drake believes that more plants similar to this would be developed to address different environmental problems. The said report was published on the March 2010 print issue of the FASEB Journal.
Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. "Genetically Engineered Tobacco Plant Cleans Up Environmental Toxin." ScienceDaily 6 March 2010. 17 March 2010