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Programming Plants

October 16, 2014

Researchers strive to engineer plants with the same precision they use to design microchips.



Precision designed plants. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

A field called synthetic plant biology seeks to make genetic engineering more like electrical engineering. Colorado State University researchers June Medford and Ashok Prasad describe the young field in the journal Science. Medford says that instead of moving genes from one organism to another, they’re making their own genes, designed for particular functions.

JUNE MEDFORD (Colorado State University):

It’s really bringing together the precision that electronics have and bringing it to biology, particularly that of plants.


Medford and her team have already made plants that act as sensors, changing color in the presence of explosives or pollutants. Other uses would be plants optimized to make biofuels and fertilizer. She says plant based machines make their own energy, self assemble, self repair and can be dirt cheap. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.