Living, Sustainability, Tech

Houseplants are being Bioengineered to work as Air Purifiers

Greenify the crib and purify the air.

words by: Sahar Khraibani
Nov 4, 2022

Neoplants, an organization concerned with the future of plants, just revealed Neo P1, a single bioengineered plant that has been demonstrated to clear ambient indoor air pollution and remove harmful particles more effectively than up to 30 common houseplants, after more than 4 years of scientific research, development, and testing. Neo P1, a development in directed evolution and plant bioengineering, is a vital initial step in the company’s objective to enable living things to defend themselves against environmental damage caused by humans.


On their website, the company shares:

“Regular plants tested by NASA sometimes capture VOCs, but without a way to recycle them into useful elements they end up accumulating these harmful pollutants. Instead of storing the pollutants Neo P1 is able to turn VOCs into water, sugars, amino acids and oxygen, which makes it a powerful plant, and an elegant way to purify the air.”


Neo P1 is the first bioengineered plant and the most powerful at operating in the role of an air purifier. It is designed at the genetic level to both capture and recycle air pollutants that can be found in households, such as xylene, toluene, benzene, and formaldehyde. These compounds are always released in indoor air from materials in furniture.


The goal of the bioengineered Pothos replica is to absorb these chemicals and turn them into other useful resources. Data from the World Health Organization shows that these indoor pollutants causing poor air quality in homes is responsible for 11% of lung cancer deaths and other pulmonary diseases.


By modifying the molecular metabolism of the plant, it was made more capable of converting VOCs into plant matter. There was a lot of work done to improve the Neo P1 microbiome through directed evolution in order to digest these VOCs more effectively.


The team at Neoplants explains this process:

“Epipremnum aureum (commonly known as Pothos — our foundation to build the Neo P1) possesses one of the highest bioremediation efficacy amongst indoor plants and contains tens of thousands of genes in its DNA. Each gene can be thought of as a line of code, instructing the plant to produce a protein with a specific function, helping its cells to survive and thrive. Through transgenesis, we inserted a few additional genes, or lines of code, enabeling the plant to produce enzymes with a new function: turning pollutants into plant matter. This is called metabolism engineering. By introducing these genes, we created two new synthetic metabolic pathways. The first enzymatic pathway turns formaldehyde into fructose, a sugar that the plant uses as food source. The second turns benzene, toluene, ethyl-benzene and xylene (BTEX) into an amino acid that the plant uses as building block for its proteins. This enables every one of the plant’s cells to become a natural air purifier.”


This bioengineered plant marks a breakthrough in the world of indoor plants and their role as air purifiers. Should you buy an air-purifying plant? Well, if yes, starting at $179, you can now join the waitlist and potentially secure yourself one. For a bit cheaper, here are houseplants that even you can keep alive.


Photo via Neoplants