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In electronics, even the most advanced computer is just a complex arrangement of simple, modular parts that control specific functions; the same integrated circuit might be found in an iPhone, or in an aircraft. Colorado State University scientists are creating this same modularity in – wait for it – plants, by designing gene “circuits” that control specific plant characteristics – color, size, resistance to drought, you name it.

The relatively new, interdisciplinary field is synthetic biology – the design of genetic circuits, just like in electronics, that control different functions and can be easily placed in one organism or the next. Most of today’s synthetic biologists work with simple microorganisms, like E. coli or yeast.

A CSU team led by June Medford, professor of biology, and Ashok Prasad, associate professor of chemical and biological engineering, is doing the same thing, but in the much more complex biological world of plants.

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