We often think of science as the study of nature. But now, science has the insight to replicate the most striking elements of nature. While some might imagine this type of manipulation as unethical or reminiscent of science fiction films, the result of synthetic biology can open the doors to limitless opportunities within the scientific world. Light Bio is leading the charge towards a literally brighter future with the evolution of bioluminescent indoor houseplants.

A glowing green sprout plant

What is bioluminescence?

To start, bioluminescence is prevalent in nature. It can be seen in plankton beneath the water’s surface. You or someone you know may have visited areas where you can witness this night show of light when the plankton are disturbed. Bioluminescence is also seen in other animals. For instance, the glow of a firefly or the radiance of a jellyfish. 

Related: 5 Bioluminescent Species that Light Up the World

However, until now, that bioluminescence has never been seen in the plant world. Light Bio has found a way to merge these two worlds, bringing the natural gleam of light from animal genetics into botany. The technology turned fantasy into reality.  

A glowing green vine plant

What is Light Bio?

Light Bio relied on recent science that increased an understanding of how the bioluminescent characteristics of mushrooms work. Mushrooms are unique organisms that are classified as fungi. They aren’t truly plants or animals. To achieve plants that glow, the genetic components that illuminate the fungi are inserted into the plants, which are naturally receptive to the bioluminescence. 

During daylight hours, one would never know there is anything unique about these plants. They simply look like any other flower — until after dark. Although the plants glow continuously from the time they are a seed, the bioluminescent qualities can only be seen when other light is eliminated. The light is generated from within the plant, as naturally as if it existed that way in nature. 

Caring for these bioluminescent plants is no different than caring for the unaltered versions. There are no special treatments required. Besides the unique ethereal aura at night, the flowers are normal in all aspects. 

A glowing green plant

Pure enjoyment that glows joy

Light Bio plants are meant for pure enjoyment. Although they aren’t solving the world’s problems, they do represent the exciting capabilities of science for the future. Synthetic biology is a relatively new field, so every successful example of its potential is a reason to further investigate the science. Really, it’s about using synthetic biology to tackle issues relevant to the environment, including food security and human health. 

Perhaps the biggest obstacle for the field of synthetic biology is the public hesitancy to embrace it. In that regard, Light Bio created a success story with a tangible product that highlights the potential for science to enhance nature rather than override it. The team at Light Bio hopes the bioluminescent plants will also illuminate the opportunities in the field of synthetic biology and inspire potential students to seek out careers in the industry. 

Three bioluminescent green plants

What now?

Light Bio is preparing to release its first commercial product and is accepting reservations for a waitlist. The flagship plant is the Firefly PetuniaÔ. An exhibit of the magical experience was on display at the Build with Biology conference. It’s also been mentioned in several scientific journals, including Nature Biotechnology, PNAS, Science Advances, and Nature

The team at Light Bio is made up of like-minded scientists, investors and entrepreneurs who see the bioluminescent plants as a stepping stone for launching the advancement of synthetic biology.

+ Light Bio

Images via Light Bio