Researchers at the University of California, San Diego have demonstrated that a chemical that permits plants to detoxify heavy metals can be transported from the roots to stems and leaves, a finding that brings the possibility of using plants to clean up soil contaminated with toxic metals such as lead, arsenic and cadmium one step closer to reality.
Images of plants without (left) and with (right) the gene to produce phytochelatins in roots exposed to cadmium.
Photo Credit Ji-Ming Gong, UCSD.
A paper detailing the discovery appears this week in an advance online publication of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and will appear in the journal’s August 19th issue.
Bioremediation, the process of using organisms to restore toxic or damaged areas, could substantially reduce the costs of cleaning up the nation’s Superfund sites, estimated to require more than $700-billion. Of the top six pollutants at U.S. Superfund sites, four are heavy metals-lead, arsenic, mercury and cadmium-that may be able to be extracted with the help of plants.
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