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Allergy-free houseplants

Thu, 4th Oct 2012

Kat Arney

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And finally, good news for people who suffer from allergies to Pelargoniums, the popular houseplants. Scientists in Spain, led by the aptly-named Begona Garcia-Sogo have shown that adding two genes into the plants can prevent them from producing allergy-triggering pollen, and make them live longer. Writing in the journal BMC Plant Biology, the researchers used a modified plant bacterium Agrobacterium tumefaciens to transfer the genes into plant cells.

One gene encodes an enzyme that increases the levels of a plant hormone that prevent ageing. The other gene, originally from a pea plants, destroys the plantís anthers - the plantís male pollen-producing organs. Plants carrying the new genes were more compact, with smaller leaves and flowers but more vibrant colours, and lived longer than usual. The modified plants could be interesting to gardeners who want longer-lived displays, as well as sneezy indoor gardeners. The lack of pollen production also cuts the chances of the modified genes being released into the environment. But the additional genes still canít protect the plants against careless owners who forget to water them.


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