Tobacco Remediates TNT Contamination

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Scientists at the University of Cambridge have modified tobacco plants to clear up soil contaminated by trinitrotoluene (TNT) manufacturing, Agence France Presse reports. The plants contain a gene from Enterobacter cloacae, which produces a bacterial enzyme capable of breaking down ADNT, the toxic contaminant in TNT. The compound is harmlessly degraded and non of it accumulates in the plant.

TNT has been a widely used explosive in munitions for 150 years, but the toxic chemical waste from sites which manufacture it is a serious environmental and health hazard, linked to anaemia, liver damage and cancer. Thousands of tons of TNT waste can be found in the soil and in pinktinged ponds and puddles around these locations.

The Cambridge team, led by Neil Bruce of the University's institute of Biotechnology, said that in lab experiments, transgenic tobacco plants not only survived concentrations of TNT that killed normal plants, they cleaned up the contaminated soil and water in a matter a matter of days.


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