PETER YATES / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PETER YATES / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Plastics from plants. Close-up of a thale cress plant Arabidopsis thaliana, held in forceps. This small plant is being used in biopolymer research for the production of plastic. Scientists at the Carnegie Institute of Washington in Stanford, California, have transplanted genes which code for plastic production from the bacterium Alcaligenes eutrophus into thale cress cells. The genes initiate plastic production in the chloroplasts of the cells. The natural biodegradable plastic made is polyhydroxybutyrate (PHB), comprising up to 14% of the plant dry weight. This genetic engineering may allow plastics to be harvested from crops, and PHB to gradually replace oil-based polymers.
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