U.K. scientists embed transcripts of medical school hopefuls into living organisms

When there are thousands of eligible candidates to be placed on the bar exams for medical school, it’s good to run through the names again. So it’s with deep relief that the University of Cambridge’s Department of Developmental Neurobiology and the Ara Project, a collaboration between UK scientists, came up with the idea of embedding the names of participating undergraduates into living organisms.

The result is a few hundred living livers that can carry the experience of being proctored through the grueling process by the name-learning machine. (The test is not pre-implantation, meaning the plan is not to implant tissues with specific exam information in donor bladders before reproduction takes place.)

“These techniques are the result of years of work on how to improve the performance of gene delivery systems” by bioengineers “who have been able to transform the operation of living cells,” Duke University bioengineer Brian Golden said in a press release. “If you imagine the liver as a cellular printer, then cells can continue to print and repurpose their templates until a drug is ready to inject — in this case, the students.”

To be clear, this isn’t a replacement for clinical exams. But in some schools, like the University of Pennsylvania, foreign students have heard their names and spoken foreign language words before getting their high school diplomas, Quartz noted. While similar technology is already in use for implantable electronics, it can be more expensive and time-consuming.

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