This is from 2007, but still interesting. Genes of different species don’t mix naturally, but they are similar enough that we can mix them in laboratories. We can even mix DNA between plants and animals with useful results.
Genetically modified plants that can break down pollutants may be an effective way to clean soil contaminated by industrial chemicals and explosives used by the military, according to scientists.
Tests on six-inch tall GM poplar cuttings which had a gene from a rabbit inserted into them showed that they could remove up to 91% of a chemical called trichloroethylene from the water used in their feed. This chemical, used as an industrial degreaser and one of the most common contaminants of ground water, was broken down by the plants into harmless byproducts more than 100 times faster than by unaltered plants.
“In view of their large size and extensive root systems, these transgenic poplars may provide the means to effectively clean sites contaminated with a variety of pollutants at much faster rates and at lower costs than can be achieved with current conventional techniques,” wrote Sharon Doty, of the University of Washington, Seattle, yesterday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
The GM poplars also broke down other common environmental pollutants such as chloroform, a byproduct of the disinfection of drinking water, the solvent carbon tetrachloride, and vinyl chloride, used to make plastics.
Poplars use an enzyme called cytochrome P450 to break down contaminants. Trichloroethylene is turned into a harmless salt, water and carbon dioxide.
After Dr Doty’s team inserted the gene into the tree from a rabbit they also produced P450, but at a much faster rate. Ultimately, the scientists would like to manipulate the plant’s own genes to achieve the same goal – guarduk