When they were children, Rose-Marie and Ghislain loved nature and wildlife. Ghislain liked bringing home all sorts of bugs to his mum.
Fast forward a few years, and they’ve met, studied, fallen in love, and are visiting America as young biologists – scientists who study living things. In New York, with its millions of people jammed together and rushing among skyscrapers, they feel very far from nature.
Wouldn’t it be great, they tell each other, to invent a way to get more plant life into big cities, where more and more of us humans live?
Speed up our film another five years, and Ghislain and Rose-Marie Auclair are back home in France and working hard in their laboratory in Strasbourg. They’ve discovered a way to make their dream come true – in an amazing way that really was inspired by a Hollywood film they both love.
Which film? Well, maybe you’ve seen Avatar? It’s about a distant planet a little like our own, where people are defending a beautiful forest filled with plants and creatures that glow in the dark.
Of course, it’s not real. But there are real creatures on Earth that glow. Like fireflies. And glow-worms.
What if, thought Rose-Marie and Ghislain, what if we could make plants shine in the dark like glow-worms and fireflies? We could solve all sorts of problems with one brilliant solution…
The young couple were dreaming big – “You mustn’t put limits on yourself,” Rose-Marie told WoW! News. But their idea is firmly based in reality.
That reality is the science of genetics. A firefly has genes that make it light up, just like you have genes that give you 10 toes and two ears. The firefly’s power to glow is called luminescence.
And a few months ago, Ghislain and Rose-Marie made a breakthrough. They managed to insert genes for luminescence into plant cells. (Cells are the microscopic bits that living things are made of.)
They hope that they can make their first whole plant that will glow in the dark by next year and to find ways to make them grow and spread so that we can start filling our cities with them.
They won’t be as bright as streetlamps, says Rose-Marie, but she and Ghislain are already talking to towns about using luminescent plants to mark out bike lanes or covering walls of buildings to give off a pretty glow.
And guess who she wants to be among the first to see her new glowing plant? Why James Cameron, of course, the Hollywood director who made Avatar, with its shining forest.
“You dreamed up Avatar,” she’ll tell James. “We’ve created the plants to go with it!”
Stayed tuned to WoW! to hear how Rose-Marie and Ghislain get on with making their dream come true.