In a boost to the field of linkurl:synthetic biology,; researchers have created an RNA-based device that can control gene expression of target genes, thus regulating molecular processes in living cells, a linkurl:paper; in this week's Science reports. The paper "shows this design approach for the first time in a biological system," linkurl:Christina Smolke; of the California Institute of Technology, the main author on the study, told The Scientist. For the past decade or so, researchers applying engineering principles to biology have been working to construct molecular machines that can be inserted into live cells to act as biosensors, drug delivery vehicles, or protein factories for biofuel or medicine production, among other functions. Recently, for example, researchers at Harvard University linkurl:inserted; a DNA plasmid into a living cell that could perform a simple operation -- regulating the level of linkurl:GFP; expression. That device, however, could not receive signals from the...

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