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Spotlight on Synthetic Biology

In a guest post at Scientific American's Lab Rat blog, iGEM-UANL team member Miguel Angel Loera Sánchez discusses what he calls the "mainstream fronts of synthetic biology." These five fronts — DNA synthesis, biological parts standardization, genetic code expansion, synthetic genetic circuits, and metabolic engineering — have helped synthetic biology become "a fast growing and productive field," Sánchez says. While much work remains to be done, the field "is attracting many smart and active young minds from different disciplines," he adds, leading him to believe that "the growth and innovation rate will likely increase in the years to come."

Meanwhile, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars's Synthetic Biology Project seeks to assess the societal impacts of advances in the field through a new public survey. The survey asks participants a variety of questions to investigate the ethical, legal, and social implications of synthetic biology research. "The results of this anonymous survey will be analyzed and compiled into a report, which will be released in mid- to late-May 2012," the Synthetic Biology Project group notes.

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.