Friday, October 16, 2009

GMO Dandelions Replacing Rubber Trees

Pop off most dandelion heads and, just for a second, white sap oozes freely from the wound. Pop the head off a new genetically engineered dandelion, however, and white sap oozes for minutes, allowing scientists to gather five times more latex than from the average dandelion.

The research could lead to a variety of new or cheaper products, including new car tires or even new pharmaceutical drugs.
'We have identified the enzyme responsible for the rapid polymerization and have switched it off,' explained Dirk Prufer, a scientist at Fraunhofer Institute in Munich, Germany, who is developing the technology.

'If the plants were to be cultivated on a large scale, every hectare would produce 500 to 1000 kilograms (1100 to 2200 pounds) of latex per growing season.'

For thousands of years, most of the world's rubber has come from tropical rubber trees. A diagonal cut in the trunk allows the white latex to drip into hanging cans, which can then be harvested and eventually turned into a variety of different materials.

Natural rubber contains trace amounts of biological impurities, however. For car tire makers, those impurities give vulcanized rubber a give and elasticity they can't get anywhere else. For some hospital workers, however, those same impurities can trigger life-threatening allergic reactions. Read entire article: Tech Helps Dandelions Ooze

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