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A product of decomposing leaf litter, exDNA could be a powerful tool for interacting with biological systems. If so, the IP associated with its applications may be an active area in the coming years, says non-practising barrister Charles Brabin.
The bright reds, ambers and yellows of autumn leaves are as transient as they are beautiful. Yet recent research suggests the dying leaves may have significant ecological effects that are much longer-lasting than the short-lived colours of the season.
As leaf litter decomposes, DNA is released. This extracellular DNA (exDNA) accumulates in the soil, where it appears to mediate a mysterious phenomenon that has baffled ecologists for decades: autotoxicity, whereby organisms modify their environment in a way that exerts negative effects on the growth of their own species.
Apart from solving a long-standing ecological riddle, these findings could have huge implications for agriculture and pharmaceuticals: exDNA could prove a powerful and specific tool for interacting with biological systems.
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