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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.

Scientists at Wayne State University have for the first time shown how humans keep pace with evolving microbes by having their own antibody genes evolve and rearrange themselves to defend the body against harmful viruses and bacteria.


During this week's podcast Dr. Ashok Bhagwat from Wayne State University lays out the parameters of the specific research problem his team took on. Describing the in vitro transcription system used by the researchers, he then walks us through the methodology that was followed to demonstrate how the mutational process the scientists were investigating creates multiple mutations in one gene in one step, which itself is a kind of Darwinian leap to fight microbial infections. Dr. Bhagwat discusses the key results of the experiment and talks about what physiological conditions and responses might need to take place in a human being to allow that person to rearrange the genes that make antibodies to foreign invaders.
The research in Dr. Bhagwat's group is focused on elucidating cellular mechanisms that promote or prevent mutations. The cellular factors that increase mutagenesis include generation of reactive chemical species, methylation of DNA, transcription and human enzymes that damage DNA. Counteracting these potentially hazardous processes are proteins that protect DNA against damage or repair DNA that has been damaged. It is important to understand the interplay between these opposing forces to explain diverse phenomena such as how antibodies are altered to improve recognition of infectious agents, what causes genetic diseases including cancer and how hyperthermophiles survive at temperatures near 100°C.

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