Genetically Engineered Tobacco Could Clean Up Toxic Pond Scum


photo: Christian Haugen via flickr.
Tobacco may do lots of bad things to human health when it's smoked, but some new research done by scientists at St George's, University of London shows that a genetically engineered strain may be able to do help clean up toxic pond scum, protecting animals and humans from potential illness:The pond scum in question is microcystin-LR (MC-LR), which makes water unsafe for drinking, swimming and fishing in many parts of the world. Upon ingestion it can cause serious liver damage, with some studies indicating a connection to causing liver and colorectal cancers.

Antibodies Secreted from Tobacco's Leaves & Roots
Writing in The FASEB Journal (that's Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, by the way), Dr Pascal Drake and colleagues engineered tobacco to produce an antibody to MC-LR in its leaves and secrete it from its roots into the surrounding growing medium. When the toxin came in contact with the antibody it became bound to it, rendering it harmless.

FASEB's editor was quoted by Science Daily:

Tobacco is perhaps one of the most cultivated non-food crops in human history and for centuries it has hurt human health. Now, with smart genetic tweaking, tobacco may prove more valuable in the field than in the pipe.

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Tags: Genetically Modified Food | Pollution | Water Crisis