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Control Over T Cells, Synthetically, Though

MIT's Technology Review reports on a study, published in PNAS, in which researchers were able to show that putting an RNA-based toggle mechanism in human T cells would allow specific drugs to determine cell growth. Technology Review's Emily Singer says the researchers are ultimately aiming to integrate the technology into T cell therapeutics currently in clinical testing. In 2007, Stanford University bioengineer Christina Smolke developed the RNA switch using synthetic biology tools, Singer writes, and it is designed to turn on the expression of a certain gene in response to certain chemicals. Now, Smolke and her collaborators are introducing the switch into T cells. The switch's RNA sensor responds to asthma drug theophylline and triggers production of an immune molecule responsible to T cell growth, Singer adds. Because the switch is made from RNA, and not proteins, it could avoid triggering an attack from the immune system, an existing problem with modified T cells.

The Scan

Pig Organ Transplants Considered

The Wall Street Journal reports that the US Food and Drug Administration may soon allow clinical trials that involve transplanting pig organs into humans.

'Poo-Bank' Proposal

Harvard Medical School researchers suggest people should bank stool samples when they are young to transplant when they later develop age-related diseases.

Spurred to Develop Again

New Scientist reports that researchers may have uncovered why about 60 percent of in vitro fertilization embryos stop developing.

Science Papers Examine Breast Milk Cell Populations, Cerebral Cortex Cellular Diversity, Micronesia Population History

In Science this week: unique cell populations found within breast milk, 100 transcriptionally distinct cell populations uncovered in the cerebral cortex, and more.