It’s a balmy fall evening, you’re out with your friends enjoying all of the pleasantries the Wednesday evening Farmers Market has to offer — maybe an elderly folk band playing for a troupe of squealing children, a bottle of irresistible fresh icy apple juice or a naanwich. Food and company aside, what is perhaps most delightful and curious about this evening in particular are the bioluminescent trees that light your way and bring a gentle, pulsing glow to Central Park.
Truth be told, it might not be too far in the future that glow-in-the-dark trees actually do become a totally badass alternative to traditional, energy-siphoning light sources; Stanford and Cambridge University PhDs Omri Amirav-Drory, Kyle Taylor and Antony Evans have been working around the clock to create the world’s first truly sustainable natural lighting.
According to the genetics team, “The long term goal idea is to replace electric or gas lighting with natural lighting from plants.”
Some of you might ask, “How is it even remotely possible to make a tree, or any plant for that matter, glow in the dark?” Well, thanks to synthetic biology and Genome Compiling software, this team of geneticists have isolated the genetic sequence that codes for the biochemical pathways employed by light producing fireflies, artificially synthesized it, and have spliced it into the plant genome via an intermediary bacterial vector.
Now, for those of you who do not speak biochemistry, please allow for some elaboration. A genetic sequence is a chunk of DNA, also known as the “blueprint of life.” DNA is essentially an encrypted roadmap of our entire physical being. DNA, when deciphered, codes for anything from your eye color, to your height, to your degree of excitement when experiencing an adrenaline rush (and also whether or not you like cilantro, pretty cool!). DNA has it all, and it is the prime subject of genetic research. Continuing, what the “Glowing Plants” geneticists did was isolate and fabricate the specific chunk of DNA in a firefly that, via a cascade of chemical reactions, will result in a bioluminescent glow. They then took this isolated bit of code and combined it with plant DNA, causing the plant to put on a very exciting light show.