by Low Lai Chow in Tech on Wednesday 15 May 2013

Think of lighting indoors, and bulbs naturally come to mind. Now a three-man team from San Francisco are turning these bulbs on their heads and turning to plants as light solutions in their place. That’s right, we’re talking about real plants that glow. It’s good news for those with green fingers.

Using synthetic biology techniques, bioluminescence genes are inserted into Arabidopsis, a member of the mustard family, to create plants that emit an intense glow. In the initial phase, the printed DNA will be inserted into a special type of bacteria which can then insert its DNA into the plant when the flowers of the plant are dipped into the bacteria-containing solution. Eventually the tested-to-perfection gene sequence will be iinserted into the plant using a gene gun.

What’s extra impressive is that the team have declared that all output, such as the DNA constructs, will be released open source. The DNA designs for one are already publicly available to anyone. As the team pointed out in their blog, a project of this nature would traditionally be done in a research institute or with the help of investors and hinder progress with so many strings attached — which is why they are securing funding via Kickstarter instead.

You can get a batch of glowing plant seeds for pledging US$40 on their Kickstarter page and an actual glowing plant for US$150. Sorry, if you’re thinking about eating these light plants, they are inedible.