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GEN’s editorial staff interviews life science academic and biotech industry leaders on important research, technology, and trends. These podcasts will keep you informed with all the important details you need.

One of the mechanisms governing how our physical features and behavioral traits have evolved over centuries has been discovered by researchers at the University of Leeds. Darwin proposed that such traits are passed from a parent to their offspring, with natural selection favoring those that give the greatest advantage for survival; however, there has been no scientific explanation for this process.

Now a collaborative research team from the U.K. and Singapore reports that a key protein known as REST plays a central role in switching specific genes on and off, thereby determining how particular traits develop in offspring.

During this week's podcast Dr. Ian Wood discusses how most scientific studies up to now have tried to shed light on the genomic basis for phenotypic variation and explains why there might be a better approach. He describes the REST protein and talks about its regulatory activities as well as the possible relationship between REST and intelligence in mammals. Dr. Wood also provides significant details of the experiment that his international team carried out to illustrate the repertoire of genes regulated by REST.

Having created a model whereby new transcription factor binding sites are constantly generated throughout the genome, Dr. Wood looks at how the model works while helping to increase our understanding of the evolutionary process.
Ian Wood, Ph.D. is the Senior Lecturer and Programme Leader for Neuroscience at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. Dr. Wood has an undergraduate degree from Imperial College, London and a PhD from University College London looking at regulation of neuronal gene expression. He then moved to the Scripps Research Institue in La Jolla to work with Professor Gerald Edelman on gene expression regulated by neuronal cell adhesion. He returned to the UK to a position in University College London and then moved to the University of Leeds in 1999 on a research fellowship and obtained a permanent post at Leeds in 2004.

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