Narrator: This is Science Today. Over the years,
thousands of sites in this country have been contaminated
with trichloroethylene, or TCE. This solvent is a
suspected carcinogen used in dry cleaning and industrial
degreasers. Dr. Thomas Wood of the University of California,
Irvine, is working to genetically engineer bacteria
to carry an enzyme to degrade the solvent.
Wood: Our idea is to engineer bacteria that
will hang out in the rhizosphere which is the area
around the plant roots and the plant will feed those
bacteria, so you don't have to add any nutrients at
all. You also don't have to dig up the soil to treat
the soil. The bacteria just continuously make this
enzyme to get through trichloroethylene.
Narrator: Once perfected in the lab, Wood has
Wood: What we'd really like to do now is grow
trees and take advantage of the bacteria that colonize
tree roots to get rid of trichloroethylene. The tree
we're shooting for is poplar tree, since it has roots
that basically go from the surface down to the groundwater,
covering all the soil between the surface and the
aquifer and getting rid of TCE along the way.
Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.