Plants are able to detect pollutants and explosives


Colorado State University biologists have shown that plants can serve as highly specific detectors that determine not only the pollutants of the environment, but also the explosive elements.

Professor June Medford (June Medford) and her research team from the Department of Biology managed using computer-aided design to rebuild the characteristic feature of the plant, which appears as a natural signaling process so the plant turns from green to white when in the air or ground them detected chemical substance. This operation - an important step in the process of long - could eventually successfully applied to safety at airports or shopping malls, or as a control pollutants such as, for example, radon in the home.

"The idea to make detector plants comes directly from nature itself" - said Medford. "Plants can not run away or hide from threats, so they have developed a clever system for identifying and responding to their environment. We ’taught’ plants to detect things that we are interested in, and instantly react to them, telling us that around that something is not right. " The study appeared recently in the open access journal PLoS ONE. Financial support for the study was carried out by the Agency Defense Advanced Research Projects (DARPA) and other security organizations.

"The capacity of plants started to identify hazardous substances are, after all, to help us to protect our troops from improvised explosive devices (IED)" - Creasy said Linda (Linda Chrisey), the software department official Naval Biosciences and Technology Services Program Biotsentrcheskih Naval Research.

Medford her research group also recently received a grant of $ 7.9 million from the U.S. Department of Defense to implement a discovery made in her research laboratory CSU. Based on research so far, detection abilities of these plants, according to Medford are similar to or even better scent dogs. Signs of detection can be developed in any kinds of plants, and can detect multiple pollutants at once - changes that can also be detected companion.

"The research of Dr. Medford illustrates the fact that the major changes in scientific understanding can be applied to tackle such important issues such as environmental protection and homeland security" - said Bill Farlend (Bill Farland), Vice President of Research in Colorado and previously chief scientist of the Environmental Protection Agency.

The computational design of feature detection Dr. Medford was originally done in collaboration with Professor Homma Helling (Homme Hellinga) from Duke University and later with Professor David Baker (David Baker) from the University of Washington.

How it works: in the laboratories of the Baker and Helling used a computer program to rebuild naturally produced proteins called receptors. These receptors are converted as a result have become particularly responsive to pollutants or explosives. Then, in the laboratory of Dr. Medford these reconstructed by computer receptors were modified to function in plants, and placed on the wall of the plant cell, where they will be able to detect pollutants or explosives in the air or soil, located near the plant. Plant substance detects and activates the internal signal which is the reason that the plant loses its green color becomes white.

Moving forward, Medford and seek cooperation with a group of about 30 undergraduates, postgraduates and doctors, will focus on such factors as the acceleration time of detection. Initially, the reaction of plants of the first generation explosive substance occurred within a few hours, but improvements in the design will help to reduce the response time to a few minutes.

Original: Physorg Translation: M. Potter

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