How much better does the engineered version work? Well, an unaltered tree will soak about three percent of the trichloroethylene from water. The modified trees up that to 91 percent. They can break down the chemical's molecules 100 times faster than nature. Oh, and the plants are also better at removing other common environmental pollutants like chloroform from the soil, and also could eat hazardous gases like benzene from the atmosphere.
University of Washington
You're welcome, humans.
Artificial Life (Sort of)
Apparently, while all these other labs were hard at work modifying things that already existed to fix our problems, one lab said, "Screw it," and just designed their own life. Not real life, mind you -- but seeing as how their synthetic copy of a living Mycoplasma capricolum cell comes complete with man-made DNA and the ability to self-replicate, we'd say it's pretty damn close.
This is the first step on the road to engineered iguanamen slaves.
As of right now, getting this new organism started is about as far as we can go with it, but still it has managed to grow hundredfold in its short five-year lifespan. This incredible stride in the field of genetic engineering is an open door to a whole new world of possibilities. Synthetic biologist Chris Voigt (he's not a robot, despite the title) claimed that with the information gathered here, the subfield of, um ... we'll just name it ourselves here, "playing God," will likely become a primary focus in the field of biological synthetic engineering.
Chris Voigt, seen here proving that "playing God" looks remarkably like sitting on your ass.
Now, keep in mind that anything close to creating a new, human-designed animal is far enough off that Voight himself calls it "science fiction." You have to think smaller. That is, smaller in size, not effect -- already they're using the techniques they learned here to create better vaccines for things like the flu. And when we say "flu," don't just think in terms of the bad cold that makes you miss a week of work, but the disease that kills up to half a million people a year.
So if this is what genetically engineered monstrosities give us, bring that shit on.
For more on awesome science, check out 7 Kickass Sci-Fi Cancer Cures and 5 Scientific Theories That Will Make Your Head Explode.