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The Boston Globe

Health & wellness

MIT summit to explore new approach to diseases

More than 300 scientists will gather this weekend at MIT for the first international workshop devoted exclusively to exploring this simple idea: Approach diseases such as cancer and diabetes with an engineer’s mind-set, including thinking about cells as if they were software and hardware that can be ­rewired, debugged, programmed, and hacked.

Until recently, the audacious quest to build new forms of life had focused mostly on small-scale tinkering, such as building useful bacteria. But powerful new tools that allow researchers to edit the genes of mammalian cells, including human cells, have brought the field of synthetic biology to a turning point and a new emphasis on major human health problems.

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