Sneeze-No-More House Plants

Allergen and pollen free plants grown by scientists live longer and look brighter

(RxWiki News) Allergy sufferers who normally don't get along with indoor plants may find some relief from sneezing. Scientists have targeted bacterial genes that can produce pollen-free and long-lived plants, according to a recently published study.

Researchers say the lack of pollen is great for hay fever sufferers. It also prevents flowers from pollinating with others and crossing the genes into the environment.

"Runny nose? Call an allergist."

Luis Canas, PhD, a researcher from the Instituto de Biología Molecular y Celular de Plantas (IBMCP) and BIOMIVA S.L. in Spain, and colleagues modified Agrobacterium tumefaciens, the bacteria that causes crown gall disease.

They transformed a gene that prevents aging in the bacteria that causes more cytokinin, a plant hormone, to grow when it is inserted into the growing plant. Having more cytokinin helps prevent aging.

Researchers also changed a second gene responsible for destroying certain parts of the plant that produce pollen.

The new bacteria were inserted into cells of the Pelargonium zonale plant group, which ultimately grow into geraniums and storkbills.

The new plants were more compact and had more branches and leaves than the normal plant.

The leaves and flowers were also smaller with more vivid colors, and the extra cytokinin helped the plants live longer than usual.

"This technology would be especially useful to produce environmentally friendly transgenic plants carrying new traits by preventing gene flow between the genetically modified ornamentals," they said in their study.

And because the plants can live longer, gardeners can show off their flowers over a longer period of time.

The authors received funding from the Spanish Ministry of Science and Innovation. They also received salaries from the Polytechnic University of Valencia and the High Spanish Council of Scientific Research.

The study was published online August 31 in BioMed Central's BMC Plant Biology. 

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Review Date: 
September 20, 2012