Phytosensors at home ($) (Science)

In this review Stewart et al. address the potential use of houseplants as biosensors for harmful agents in the home environment, taking advantage of phytosensor technology already in use in agricultural settings. The authors propose the design of genetically modified plants that carry a synthetic promoter built to sense a specific toxic element and induce the expression of a fluorescent marker gene. Among the plausible harmful agents to monitor are volatile organic compounds produced by mold, viruses and odors. The plants could be mounted on a wall near heating, ventilation and air-conditioning return vents and the fluorescence should be easily detected by using LED lights. The authors’ vision integrates synthetic biology and interior design to improve quality of life and prevent illnesses related to the built environment. (Summary by Mariana Antonietti) Science  10.1126/science.aau2560