Media ReportApril 19, 2006
Wayne State researchers using genetics to breed plants that clean up arsenicGreat Lakes IT Report
The idea of using plants to clean up toxic arsenic has been around a while, but thanks to a team at Wayne State University, it's recently seen a major improvement. Several years ago, Barry P. Rosen, professor and chair of the department of biochemistry and molecular biology at Wayne State University’s School of Medicine, used genetic techniques to create "arsenic-eating" plants that could be planted on polluted sites. There was a problem, however. The arsenic sequestered from soil remained largely in the roots of the plant, making it difficult to harvest for safe disposal. Now, Rosen and his collaborators have discovered a way to move the arsenic from roots to shoots, the next step in their quest for plants that can clean up arsenic. The new strategy is part of what researchers call phytoremediation, the cleaning of polluted soils through the use of plants that sequester poisons, make them less harmful, and which can then be harvested. It has the potential to be of use on millions of acres of arsenic-polluted lands worldwide.