(ORDO NEWS) — Scientists from the Sainsbury Laboratory at the University of Cambridge (SLCU) have successfully created technology that allows humans to communicate with plants using light messages. This remarkable achievement ushered in a new era in plant science, turning the once fictitious idea of human-plant communication into reality.
Experiments carried out by Alexander Jones’s research group at the university involved using light as a messenger to trigger plant defense mechanisms. By activating the natural defense mechanisms of tobacco plants, the researchers demonstrated that light can serve as a stimulus that triggers plant immune responses. This discovery means that light, which is a universal means of communication for humans, can now bridge the gap between humans and plants, enabling interspecies communication.
Previously, a team at the University of Cambridge had developed fluorescent light biosensors that allowed plants to visually communicate cellular activity to humans in real time. Using these biosensors, it was possible to observe the dynamics of the most important plant hormones and their response to environmental stress. The latest development, called Highlighter, is a tool that uses specific lighting conditions to activate the expression of target genes in plants, allowing humans to trigger defense mechanisms in plants.
Dr Jones explains the potential applications of this technology: “If we could warn plants of an impending disease outbreak or pest attack, then the plants could activate their natural defense mechanisms to prevent widespread damage.” This innovation has the potential to revolutionize agricultural practices by allowing plants to be alerted to impending extreme weather events or pest attacks. As a result, plants can adjust their growth patterns, conserve water, or activate defense mechanisms, leading to more sustainable and efficient farming that reduces reliance on chemicals.
Specialists such as J. Clark Lagarias from the University of California at Davis and employees of the National Physical Laboratory took part in the development of Highlighter. Overcoming the difficulties associated with the application of optogenetics – a system of gene expression driven by light – in plants has played a critical role in improving the technology. Optogenetics, which uses light stimuli to control specific processes, has revolutionized various fields, including neuroscience. However, its application to plants has been difficult due to the large number of photoreceptors in plants and their need for a wide spectrum of light for growth.
The Highlighter system developed by the researchers is minimally invasive and uses light signals for activation and inactivation. It is not affected by the normal cycling of light and dark in growth chambers, making it a practical and effective tool for communicating with plants.
Dr Sarah O’Connor, Professor at the John Innes Centre, citing experts in the field, highlights the significance of this breakthrough:
“This technology opens up new possibilities for understanding plant biology and developing innovative solutions to solve agricultural problems. The ability to communicate with plants has the potential to revolutionize agricultural practices and lead to more sustainable and environmentally friendly approaches.”
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