Imagine Reading by the Light of a Plant …

That’s just what Antony Evans and the team behind the Glowing Plant Kickstarter have in mind. And you can help them get there (and get your own glowing plant in return!)

Molecular biologists have used bioluminescence as a laboratory technique for decades. This light-producing reaction (different from the fluorescence given off by jellyfish and other “glowing” organisms like the GFP-labeled tobacco plant above) is stunningly simple, using proteins isolated from fireflies and glow-worms to create light using only oxygen and a molecule called luciferin. I’ve done it myself dozens of times, it’s pretty cool.

Modern synthetic biology techniques give us the power to insert this gene into the genome of almost any organism whose genes we can manipulate. Arabidopsis thaliana, the so-called plant “model organism” is one of those. Using special plant-specific bacteria, we can insert genes into the tiny weed at will. Since every living thing expresses RNA and protein using the same genetic code, all Evans and his team need to do is tweak the precise DNA sequence, letter by letter, to make it work as efficiently in plants as it does in other organisms. It’s harder than it sounds, of course, but well within the realm of the possible.

Their fundraising campaign has already been so successful that they have expanded their goal to making a glowing rose! I’d buy that for a dollar. Visit their Kickstarter to learn more and to get your name on the list for a glowing plant. The Glowing Plant project is also on Tumblr, so go give them some love and follow for more news.

These green-thumbed bio-hackers are imagining a world without streetlights, where we read without a light on our nightstand but instead a glowing plant in our room. I’d like to see that happen.
Bioluminescent plants - Thoughts and Musings

Create GLOWING PLANTS using synthetic biology and Genome Compiler’s software - the first step in creating sustainable natural lighting

This page intrigues me on multiple levels:

1. Kickstarter is the best thing EVER for creative types who don’t necessarily have a trust fund.  What better way to advertise and get funding than through the interwebs?!

2. Ethics of Synthetic Biology/Genetic engineering - As a person who loves experimentation and creation using whatever materials are at hand, the debate about the ethics of modern synthetic biology and genetic engineering techniques is of great interest to me.  As an artist, I think it’s AWESOME that the technology of essentially “building” with DNA sequences is finally becoming more readily available to the public (trickle-down affect). However, as with all technology, it can be misused. And when the technology is about the creation of LIFE itself, the stakes are raised. 

I think this idea in particular is what my collaboration group’s installation piece for Monday is about. Emily’s story about a photosynthetic human being treated as a test subject touches on this common (yet super important and never-endingly complicated!!) question in the field of life sciences. How do we - as creative people, artists and scientists - balance our enthusiasm for creation, experimentation, and discovery with the ethical demands of society and our own consciences?

In our installation piece, we are turning our room into a sort of cavernous bio luminescent living entity, which we are called “Mr. Lux."  What is Lux? Is it just a covering, like moss or algae covering a surface? Or is it tissue of a larger being? If larger being, what part of Lux are we inside in this cavernous part? And why is it being kept in a LAB?! 

Jim Liu in STEM by @luciahelenka #shortfilm shot by @marcusautelli produced by @jason_underhill & @julienmaxp from an original idea by Will Duke. We shot the film, it looks superb, and we are now raising money on Indiegogo to finance the editing and post-production: Thanks for your support! #indiegogo #jimliu #stem #stemshortfilm #fundraising #glowingplant #biohacker #dandelion #love #drama #cool #support #willduke