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Chinese Fern Helps Remediate Arsenic Soil

The Chinese brake fern Pteris vittata can pull heavy metals like arsenic out of the soil and keeps it safe in its fronds.


No other plants or animals are known to match its ability to hoard the heavy metal. Now researchers have identified three genes essential to how the fern accumulates arsenic, according to a study in the May 20 Current Biology.

The fern shuttles the heavy metal, often found as arsenate in soil, from the plantís roots to its shoots. There, the three genes make proteins that help corral arsenate as it moves through the plantís cells and into a cellular compartment called a vacuole, where the arsenic is sequestered, the team found.

In his 1983 novel Against Infinity science fiction author Gregory Benford wrote about bioengineered organisms called "scooters" that were designed to roam the surface of Ganymede (one of the moons of Jupiter) and find ammonia-based compounds and digest them into usable oxygen compounds.

Via ScienceNews.

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