Hopping to the Rescue

The Easter bunny is here… with a basket full of fresh air?

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Urban homes often contain high levels of pollutants, known as volatile organic carcinogens. These VOC’s include formaldehyde, benzene, and chloroform. Yuck!

Certain house plants are a good, cheap way to remove VOC’s. But studies can’t agree on just how well they work. Is there a way to quickly break down these nasty chemicals?

Stuart Strand and colleagues at the University of Washington think they’ve ‘hopped’ on a solution. Their secret weapon? Rabbits!

Mammals, like rabbits, have a special type of detoxifying gene called cytochrome P450.

Strand isolated the gene from a rabbit, then inserted it into the DNA of a common houseplant. Specifically, devil’s ivy. How did this strange hybrid stack up?

Unmodified ivy could only break down tiny amounts of VOC’s in the air. But the Franken-plant was able to eliminate almost ALL of the toxins. The plant could even take in pollutants and turn them into plant food!

This could be the Easter Bunny that keeps on giving…all year long!