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Operating System for cells
 posted  November 21st 2011 at 8:51 AM
No doubt, it is difficult to design operating systems for computers that simultaneously run numerous applications, while managing interactions between multiple types of hardware and responding to a multitude of commands from users.

Now imagine trying to design a similar operating system not for a laptop, a PC or even a smartphone, but rather for something much, much tinier -- a living biological cell.

This is exactly what a group of scientists at the University of Nottingham, in England, will attempt to do as part of a five-year, $1.58 million research project that has been aptly named AudACiOus -- which, according to researchers is derived from "towArds a Universal BiologicAl-Cell Operating System" with an extraneous "D" and "U" thrown in.

It is undoubtedly an audacious and ambitious initiative, but if the researchers are successful it could result in a major breakthrough for synthetic biology -- a relatively new and somewhat controversial interdisciplinary field.

It combines biology, chemistry, physics, computer science and engineering to program genetic components of a cell to perform new biological functions -- such as bacteria that could produce biofuel or vaccines.

Researchers say the project could lead to the creation of completely new cellular life forms that could do anything from cleaning up pollutants in the environment to detecting and treating viruses before they enter the human body.

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