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GEN’s editor in chief, John Sterling, 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.

Flanders Institute for Biotechnology scientists associated with the Catholic University of Leuven and Harvard University report that stretches of nucleic acids previously believed to be useless junk DNA play a vital role in the evolution of our genome. As reported in the May 29 issue of Science, the researchers found that unstable pieces of junk DNA help tune the activity of genes and enable organisms to quickly adapt to changes in their environments.

During this week's podcast Dr. Kevin Verstrepen explains why most scientists once considered noncoding DNA unimportant and then what happened to turn this perception of junk DNA around. Noting that the number of tandem repeats changes frequently when DNA is copied, he discusses how local DNA packaging is affected and gene activity altered. Dr. Verstrepen describes the resultant impact on the evolution of an organism.

Dr. Verstrepen goes on to talk about the experimental procedure his team carried out with S. cerevisiae to demonstrate that tandem repeats may facilitate evolutionary tuning of gene expression by affecting local chromatin structure. He also provides some hints on the next phase of this research.
Hemant K. Paudel, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery at McGill University, and Project Director at the Bloomfield Center for Research in Aging at Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research at The Sir Mortimer B. Davis-Jewish General Hospital.


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Scientifically Studying Ecstasy

MDMA (commonly known as the empathogen “ecstasy”) is classified as a Schedule 1 drug, which is reserved for compounds with no accepted medical use and a high abuse potential. Two researchers from Stanford, however, call for a rigorous scientific exploration of MDMA's effects to identify precisely how the drug works, the data from which could be used to develop therapeutic compounds.

Do you agree that ecstasy should be studied for its potential therapeutic benefits?

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