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The Synthetic Surge

Researchers at the University of Nottingham are leading an international team of synthetic biologists in a project that could prove the field's importance, reports Popular Science's Clay Dillow. The group is trying to create a "reprogrammable cell that can act as the in vivo cell equivalent to a computer's operating system," Dillow says. "In other words, they are trying to create cellular software that would let researchers alter living cells without changing their hardware." If this works, he adds, it may provide a way for researchers to program existing cells to perform various tasks, or create brand-new cell forms not found in nature to carry out specific jobs. For this project, the UK-led team is working with E. coli and generating a database of cellular programs that would allow researchers to move faster toward their goals. "Customized living cells could be tailored to clean up environmental disasters, scrub unwanted carbon from the air, pull pollutants from drinking water, attack pathogens inside the human body, protect food sources from agricultural pests — the list is potentially endless," Dillow says.

The Scan

Self-Reported Hearing Loss in Older Adults Begins Very Early in Life, Study Says

A JAMA Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery study says polygenic risk scores associated with hearing loss in older adults is also associated with hearing decline in younger groups.

Genome-Wide Analysis Sheds Light on Genetics of ADHD

A genome-wide association study meta-analysis of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder appearing in Nature Genetics links 76 genes to risk of having the disorder.

MicroRNA Cotargeting Linked to Lupus

A mouse-based study appearing in BMC Biology implicates two microRNAs with overlapping target sites in lupus.

Enzyme Involved in Lipid Metabolism Linked to Mutational Signatures

In Nature Genetics, a Wellcome Sanger Institute-led team found that APOBEC1 may contribute to the development of the SBS2 and SBS13 mutational signatures in the small intestine.