Hoping to give new meaning to the term natural light, a small group of biotechnology hobbyists and entrepreneurs has started a project to develop plants that glow, potentially leading the way for trees that can replace electric streetlamps and potted flowers luminous enough to read by.为了给“自然光”这个词加添新意,一个生物技术爱好者和创业者小组积极开展了一项闪烁植物的研究,在此基础上或许可以研发出有代替路灯的树根和能供读者用的灯光盆栽花卉。The project, which will use a sophisticated form of genetic engineering called synthetic biology, is attracting attention not only for its audacious goal, but for how it is being carried out.这项研究将利用基因工程的一种高级形式——制备生物学,而它之所以受到注目,不只是因为目标大胆,还因为它的实行方式。Rather than being the work of a corporation or an academic laboratory, it will be done by a small group of hobbyist scientists in one of the growing number of communal laboratories springing up around the nation as biotechnology becomes cheap enough to give rise to a do-it-yourself movement.这项研究不是由一个企业或者是一家学术实验室来已完成,它将由一个科学家兴趣小组在一家公共实验室内已完成,生物技术的成本早已充足的便宜,令其人们自己动手沦为有可能,公共实验室在全国不断涌现。The project is also being financed in a D.I.Y. sort of way: It has attracted more than $250,000 in pledges from about 4,500 donors in about two weeks on the Web site Kickstarter.这项研究的融资也于是以通过一种DIY的方式展开:两周时间左右它之后在Kickstarter网上更有到大约4500个出资人,允诺投资多达25万美元(约合153.53万元人民币)的资金。

The effort is not the first of its kind. A university group created a glowing tobacco plant a few years ago by implanting genes from a marine bacterium that emits light. But the light was so dim that it could be perceived only if one observed the plant for at least five minutes in a dark room.这种研究并非首例。几年前一个大学社团曾通过将一种闪烁的海洋细菌流经植物体内而研制出了会闪烁的烟草植株。但是由于它收到的光线过于黯淡,只有在暗室里仔细观察最少5秒钟之后人们才能感觉到它的发光。The new projects goals, at least initially, are similarly modest. We hope to have a plant which you can visibly see in the dark (like glow-in-the-dark paint), but dont expect to replace your light bulbs with version 1.0, the projects Kickstarter page says.这项新的研究的目标,最少是可行性目标,也某种程度激进。

该研究的Kickstarter网页上称:“我们期望能研制出一种在黑暗中可以被看见的植物(就像夜光颜料那样),但是不要确信1.0版本就能代替你的电灯。”But part of the goal is more controversial: to publicize do-it-yourself synthetic biology and to inspire others to create new living things. As promising as that might seem to some, critics are alarmed at the idea of tinkerers creating living things in their garages. They fear that malicious organisms may be created, either intentionally or by accident.而该研究的有些目标则是有争议性的:推展DIY制备生物的理念以及“鼓舞其他人建构新的生物”。这在有些人真是有可能很是振奋人心,但批评者对这种在自家车库就能建构生物的造物者的点子产生了警觉。他们惧怕有可能会生产出有危害生物体,不管是蓄意还是车祸。

Two environmental organizations, Friends of the Earth and the ETC Group, have written to Kickstarter and to the Agriculture Department, which regulates genetically modified crops, in an effort to shut down the glowing plant effort.两家环保的组织地球之友(Friends of the Earth)和ETC的组织(ETC Group)早已致信Kickstarter和农业部(Agriculture Department),企图阻止对闪烁植物的研究活动。The project will likely result in widespread, random and uncontrolled release of bioengineered seeds and plants produced through the controversial and risky techniques of synthetic biology, the two groups said in their letter demanding that Kickstarter remove the project from its Web site.这两个的组织在拒绝Kickstarter从其网站上撤消该项目的信中称之为,这项研究有可能将不会造成利用争议性的、危险性的制备生物技术生产出有的生物工程种子和植物经常出现大范围的、随机的、不不受掌控的蔓延。”They note that the project has pledged to deliver seeds to many of its 4,000 contributors, making it perhaps the first-ever intentional environmental release of an avowedly synthetic biology organism anywhere in the world. Kickstarter told the critics to take up their concerns with the projects organizers. The Agriculture Department has not yet replied.他们提及,这项研究早已允诺要给4000多名支持者发给种子,这也许是“有史以来第一次将一种堪称制备生物的有机体无意地在全世界展开环境性获释”。Kickstarter让批评者向项目组织者传达他们的担忧。

农业部还并未回应做出恢复。Antony Evans, the manager of the glowing plant project, said in an interview that the activity would be safe.这个闪烁植物项目的经理安东尼·埃文斯(Antony Evans)在专访中称之为,这项活动是安全性的。What we are doing is very identical to what has been done in research laboratories and big institutions for 20 years, he said. Still, he added, We are very cognizant of the precedent we are setting with the do-it-yourself project and that some of the money raised would be used to explore public policy issues.他说道:“我们要展开的研究与研究实验室和大型机构在过去20年中仍然展开的研究完全相同。

”他还补足称之为,对DIY项目,“我们十分理解我们正在生产什么样的先例”,一部分筹措来的资金将用作探寻公共政策方面的问题。Synthetic biology is a nebulous term and it is difficult to say how, if at all, it differs from genetic engineering.制备生物学是一个模糊不清的概念,很难把它和基因工程区分出去,或者说显然就造就。In its simplest form, genetic engineering involves snipping a gene out of one organism and pasting it into the DNA of another. Synthetic biology typically involves synthesizing the DNA to be inserted, providing the flexibility to go beyond the genes found in nature.基因工程最简单的形式就是指一个有机体内萃取出有一个基因,将它植入另一个有机物的DNA中。

制备生物学一般来说是制备一个可可供植入的DNA,同时具备可以远超过自然界中有数基因范围的灵活性。The glowing plant project is the brainchild of Mr. Evans, a technology entrepreneur in San Francisco, and Omri Amirav-Drory, a biochemist. They met at Singularity University, a program that introduces entrepreneurs to futuristic technology.这项闪烁植物工程是旧金山一个科技创业者埃文斯和生物化学家奥姆里·阿米拉夫-德罗利(Omri Amirav-Drory)的创新。他们是在奇点大学(Singularity University)一个向创业者讲解未来主义技术的项目上结识。

Dr. Amirav-Drory runs a company called Genome Compiler, which makes a program that can be used to design DNA sequences. When the sequence is done, it is transmitted to a mail-order foundry that synthesizes the DNA.阿米拉夫-德罗利经营着一家叫作Genome Compiler的公司,该公司的一个项目可以用作设计DNA序列。排序已完成以后,将不会传授给一个拒绝接受零售商的工厂去制备DNA。Kyle Taylor, who received his doctorate in molecular and cell biology at Stanford last year, will be in charge of putting the synthetic DNA into the plant. The research will be done, at least initially, at BioCurious, a communal laboratory in Silicon Valley that describes itself as a hackerspace for biotech.去年在斯坦福大学(Stanford)获得了分子和细胞生物学博士学位的凯尔·泰勒(Kyle Taylor)将负责管理把制备的DNA植入植物体内。

这项研究将在BioCurious实验室已完成,最少可行性研究如此。BioCurious是一家坐落于硅谷的公共实验室,它称之为自己是一个“生物技术的黑客空间。”Whether it will ever be possible to replace light bulbs remains to be seen and depends to some extent on how much of the plants energy can be devoted to light production while still allowing the plant to grow. Mr. Evans said his group calculated, albeit with many assumptions, that a tree that covers a ground area of 10 meters (nearly 33 feet) by 10 meters might be able to cast as much light as a street lamp.闪烁植物否可以代替电灯泡还有待确认,这同时也各不相同这种植物在保持生长的同时将不会用多少能量生产明亮。埃文斯称之为,虽然不存在很多假设,但他的小组还是计算出来出有,一株可以覆盖面积100平方米区域的大树也许可以生产出有一盏街灯的明亮。

While the Agriculture Department regulates genetically modified plants, it does so under a law covering plant pests.虽然农业部对转基因植物展开监管,但利用的毕竟一项植物病虫害方面的法律。Todd Kuiken, senior research associate at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, who has been studying the governance of both synthetic biology and the do-it-yourself movement, said the glowing plant project was an ideal test case.华盛顿伍德罗·威尔逊国际学者中心(Woodrow Wilson Center)的高级研究助理托德·库伊肯(Todd Kuiken)对制备生物学和DIY运动都展开过研究,他称之为闪烁植物工程是一个理想的实验案例。It exposes the gaps and holes in the regulatory structure, while it is, I would argue, a safe product in the grand scheme of things, Dr. Kuiken said. A serious look needs to be taken at the regulatory system to see if it can handle the questions synthetic biology is going to raise.库伊肯说道:“它曝露了监管结构中的缺陷和漏洞,同时我必需要说的是,从大局上来看这是一个安全性的产品。