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  The future of ‘smart plants'

 

Narrator:            This is Science Today. In the future, we may have what synthetic biologists call "smart plants." Christopher Voigt, of the University of California, San Francisco, explains.

Voigt:                  You could imagine a corn variant for example, that's able to sense its environment and perform computation on those signals and produce particular responses. So, maybe it's sensing drought conditions and producing a protein specific to help with that.

Narrator:            Voigt and his colleagues engineered bacteria with key molecular circuitry that can enable genetic engineers to program various cells to communicate and perform computations. Right now, the amount of circuit connections is still small.

Voigt:                  Where we'd like to see this is in five years we can put together dozens of circuits. Maybe in 10 years, we can actually put together the same number of circuits that currently exist in the bacterium. And that would really be pushing the field to genome scale engineering, which is the ultimate objective.

Narrator:            For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.