Elusive blue rose

Breakthroughs in biotechnology may finally resolve the quest for the elusive blue rose, which alas does not exist because the flower lacks the required pigment genes. At us-based Vanderbilt University's school of medicine, scientists studying how drugs metabolise in the liver, stumbled across a human enzyme that may hold the key to create the world's first blue rose.

Elizabeth Gillam, working in the laboratory of biochemist F Peter Guengerich, amazed her boss one day with a flask full of bacteria that she turned blue with an enzyme taken from a patient's liver. The scientists have inserted into roses the human gene that produces that blue enzyme. However, so far, they have only managed to get a few blue spots into the stems. "This would prove to be a holy-grail for many biotechnologists,' says Guengerich.