Future of bioluminescence

The mighty power of plants is incredible and awe-inspiring. Saplings force their way up through stones and tree roots cause pavements to erupt.

Some seeds can remain dormant for years before magically coming to life and producing wonderous flowers and leaves. The snowdrops, crocuses and early daffodils brave the still freezing temperatures to remind us that there is new life to be found in the dark grey winter months.

Plants have been used for thousands of years to help heal the sick. Herbalism is a practice that was the only option before modern medicine – that and prayer. There must have been hundreds of years of research across the world gone into what we know today and many of our modern day medicines are plant derived.

It appears that once again we are turning to the natural world for solutions to our problems. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have succeeded in injecting watercress plants with a chemical that is used by fireflies to make themselves glow in the dark. The chemical structure of the plant means that it will hold this glow and just one plant can give off enough glow to read a book by. This is a huge discovery.

These plants can grow pretty much anywhere although obviously they need a fair amount of water, but watercress isn’t the only option. This kind of research has been around for a few years and various teams in various countries have been experimenting with algae, jellyfish and bioluminescent bacteria in the hope of creating a ‘new light’ in the age of technology.

We are killing our planet, we know this. The Industrial Revolution surely did revolutionise the way we all live today but it also birthed a demon in the way we use our earth’s resources. Yes, the earth naturally goes through cycles of heat and cold but the way we live has accelerated and exacerbated the process.

The poles are melting and the species that have formed perfectly to live in such climates are rapidly becoming endangered. The hole in the ozone layer was cause for huge concern and led to a ban on CFC’s (Chlorofluorocarbon) and the reduction of coal fires has gone some way to reducing that hole. Mario Molina and Sherwood Rowland were scientists in the early 70’s whose groundbreaking research awarded them the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry.

It was from their findings that the world stood up and took notice of what the chemicals were doing —they had concluded that the atmosphere only had a ‘finite capacity for absorbing chlorine’ atoms into the stratosphere and the hole would only get bigger unless something was done. Now, 30 years on, the hole is healing.

If we can all stand up and support the amazing work these scientists are now coming forward with regarding these new ways of lighting our life, imagine the reduction in electricity we would need and then, in turn, the reduction of our impact on the planet.

Laura White

Author: Laura White

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