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RNA, obey

Researchers build genetic devices to program cell actions

10:43am, November 29, 2010

Scientists are one step closer to learning how to program cells the way other people program computers.

Researchers led by Christina Smolke, a biochemical engineer at Stanford University, report the accomplishment in the Nov. 26 Science.

Smolke and her colleagues created RNA devices that could rewire cells to sense certain conditions and respond by making particular proteins. Such technology might be harnessed for creating cell-based therapies and cancer-fighting treatments. Someday, scientists might also be able to flip an RNA switch to make plants more tolerant to drought or coax yeast to produce industrial chemicals.

Other researchers have reported building RNA-programming components before, but Smolke’s group is the first to integrate all the pieces into a fully functional system, says Adam P. Arkin, a systems and synthetic biologist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, Berkeley. “It’s sort of

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