(CNN)Humble houseplants have long been known to bring benefits that go way beyond brightening a room, and now researchers have given their powers an extra boost, turning a popular species of climber into an air purifier.
Rabbit gene turns houseplant into air detoxifier
A team of scientists at the University of Washington in the United States made the golden pothos (Epipremnum aureum) remove toxic gases from the air by inserting a rabbit gene called CYP2E1 into its DNA.
The air breathed in homes usually contains more harmful compounds than office or school air, according to the study.
"This is the first houseplant that has been transformed to break down toxic compounds in the home," study author Stuart Strand told CNN via telephone.
This gene, which is present in all mammals, makes an enzyme called cytochrome P450 2E1 that breaks down a number of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), many of which are toxic. The enzyme also metabolizes alcohol in the human liver.
But the team focused in on its ability to break down the harmful compounds benzene and chloroform, which have been linked with cancer, according to the American Cancer Society and the US Environmental Protection Agency.
These compounds are produced by many sources in the home, such as showering, cooking, smoking and even furniture.
To test the plants' powers of purification, the team placed unaltered as well as altered plants in glass tubes containing either chloroform or benzene gas and left them for