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Featured Breakthroughs Podcast Episodes

Tune in to select episodes of Breakthroughs podcast featuring Feinberg basic science faculty. To view all podcast episodes, please visit the Breakthroughs Podcast webpage.

Inflammation concept image, inflamed human tissues 3D rendering

Pursuing Deeper Understanding of Inflammation with Murali Prakriya, PhD

Inflammation is a common feature of many diseases and Northwestern Medicine investigators have identified how a calcium channel contributes to inflammation in the brain and lungs. This could aid in finding new types of therapeutics for inflammation-related diseases and conditions. In this episode, Murali Prakriya, PhD, discusses the evolution of this groundbreaking research in ion channels as well as his latest findings published in Nature Communications.
Listen to Prakriya's Interview
Microscopic blue bacteria and viruses

Engineering Bacteria to Monitor and Treat Disease with Arthur Prindle, PhD

Thanks to advancements in synthetic biology, scientists are now engineering bacterial communities with the goal of using these cells to monitor and treat diseases. In this episode, Arthur Prindle, PhD, explains how his lab is reprogramming bacteria that may be used in the future to detect disease and deliver therapeutics for many different conditions, including cancer, diabetes and inflammatory bowel disease.
Listen to Prindle's Interview
colorful cancer cells

Predicting Which Cancer Cells May Become Drug-Resistant with Yogesh Goyal, PhD

Treating cancer has become increasingly difficult as cells develop resistance. Northwestern investigators have sought to address this issue on the cellular level through the development of a novel FateMap tool, used to predict the future behavior of cancer cells before they are exposed to cancer-fighting drugs. In this episode, Yogesh Goyal, PhD, discusses his latest research, published in Nature, and how his lab is addressing complex problems through an interdisciplinary approach. 
Listen to Goyal's Interview
Blue background with interconnected neurons, representing brain activity

How the Brain Regulates Aggressive Behavior with Ann Kennedy, PhD

A theoretical neuroscientist, Ann Kennedy, PhD, is investigating neural computation and the structure of behavior. In this episode, she talks about her recent research in the area of aggression and how it's regulated in the brains of animals. She was recently named the winner of the 2022 Eppendorf and Science Prize for Neurobiology.
Listen to Kennedy's Interview
Electronic circuit boards arranged to resemble a brain

The Role of Dopamine in Habit Formation and Compulsive Behavior with Talia Lerner, PhD

How are habits – both good and bad – formed in the brain, and what role do habits play in diseases of the brain? These are some of the questions neuroscientist, Talia Lerner, PhD, is investigating in her lab. Her recent study, published in Cell Reports, may change the overall understanding of how habits are formed and could be broken. 

Listen to Lerner's Interview

Investigating Therapies for Genetic Epilepsy with Alfred George, Jr., MD

Alfred George, Jr., MD, is a pioneer in understanding the mechanisms by which ion channel mutations cause a variety of inherited disorders, such as genetic epilepsy. He discusses his recent breakthroughs in the field and his optimism for future RNA therapeutics to treat rare genetic diseases.

Listen to George's Interview
digital rendering of blood cells flowing through artery

Cell-Based Treatments to Fight Diseases with Luisa Iruela-Arispe, PhD 

Cell and Developmental Biology is a field that's integral to finding new therapies for a wide variety of diseases. At Feinberg, Lusia Iruela-Arispe, PhDa vascular biologist, leads the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology as chair. In this episode, she talks about her research and the future of cell-based treatments for diseases.  

Listen to Arispe's Interview
digital rendering of herpes virus

A Vaccine Pathway for Herpes Virus with Gregory Smith, PhD

Gregory Smith, PhD, professor of Microbiology-Immunology at Feinberg, has been investigating a path to long-needed vaccine development for herpes virus. He recently published findings in the journal Nature that bring the possibility of a preventive vaccine a step closer. 

Listen to Smith's Interview
patient wearing a face mask receiving immunization from a masked healthcare provider

COVID-19 Boosters Increase Protection with Alexis Demonbreun, PhD

What do we know about the effectiveness of COVID-19 boosters, and how might they better protect us from new variants such as omicron? Alexis Demonbreun, PhD, assistant professor of Pharmacology, offers insight. She is the author of a new study that shows COVID-19 boosters seem to supercharge antibody response.
Listen to Demonbruen's Interview
white human protein structures against a black background

Human Genome Project for Proteins with Neil Kelleher, PhD

Millions of molecular proteins are swimming through our body's cells and many studies have discovered that these proteins are the main drivers of all human diseases. Scientists are now mapping proteins the way the Human Genome Project mapped genes. Northwestern's Neil Kelleher, PhD, is at the forefront of the Human Proteoform Project and explains how it could lead to more targeted and effective diagnostics and treatments for diseases.
Listen to Kelleher's Interview
fluorescent microscopy image of neurons expressing PercevalHR in the brain

Earliest Signs of Parkinson's Disease with D. James Surmeier, PhD

Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered one of the earliest signs of Parkinson's disease, proving that damaged neuronal mitochondria alone can cause symptoms of the disease, according to a study published in Nature. Senior author D. James Surmeier, chair of the Feinberg department of Neuroscience, who has over 30 years of experience in the field, explains the importance of these findings for future Parkinson's research and therapeutics. 
Listen to Surmeier's Interview
Muscular dystrophy in muscle tissue

Advancing Muscular Dystrophy Research with Elizabeth McNally, MD, PhD

While there are more treatments now than ever before for neuromuscular diseases like muscular dystrophy, patients who have very specific gene mutations associated with these diseases have few options. Elizabeth McNally, MD, PhD, says a discovery in her lab could lead to a new therapy for muscular dystrophy, including its rare forms.
Listen to McNally's episode
coronavirus with dark blue spike protein infiltrating host cells, whose machinery it uses to replicate its yellow RNA

Next-Generation COVID Vaccines with Pablo Penaloza-MacMaster, PhD

As the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 is causing breakthrough infections in some vaccinated people around the world, scientists at Northwestern Medicine are developing and studying potential next-generation COVID-19 vaccines that could be more effective at preventing and clearing breakthrough infections. Pablo Penaloza-MacMaster, assistant professor of Microbiology-Immunology at Feinberg, discusses recent studies from his lab that aim to improve current COVID-19 vaccines. 
Listen to Penaloza-MacMaster's Interview
three COVID-19 antigen tests

COVID-19 Antibody Testing with Elizabeth McNally, MD, PhD

A team of Northwestern scientists have come together from across disciplines to develop a COVID-19 antibody test designed for at-home use. Elizabeth McNally, MD, PhD, is part of the team working on this test to determine prior exposure to the virus.
Listen to the Interview Featuring McNally
a pair of gloved hands extracting medication from a vial with a syringe

The Dangers of Unproven COVID-19 Therapies with Benjamin Singer, MD

While the world anxiously awaits a vaccine for COVID-19, some physicians on the front lines are trying new or repurposed therapies in an effort to help COVID patients. Benjamin Singer, MD, a Northwestern physician-scientist, discusses his experiences in the ICU during this time and his recently published letter warning against the use of unproven therapies.
Listen to Singer's Interview
a magenta and green protein complex, nsp10/16

Investigating the New Coronavirus with Karla Satchell, PhD, Part 2

This is an update to the Jan. 28, 2020 episode about Northwestern's Karla Satchell's effort to lead an investigation into the structure biology of the components of COVID-19. The goal is to ultimately understand how to stop it from replicating in human cells through a medication or vaccine.
Listen to Satchell's Interview
a CRISPR/Cas9-based mutation-prevention system that is capable of discriminating a single nucleotide variation (indicated in green) in the DNA code (in blue) to readily remove newly occurring disease-associated mutations

The Future of Genetic Medicine with Elizabeth McNally, MD, PhD

Elizabeth McNally, MD, PhD, is a human geneticist, a Northwestern Medicine cardiologist and the director of the Center for Genetic Medicine at Northwestern. In this episode, she talks about her recent discoveries in the genetics of cardiovascular and neuromuscular disorders and shares what we can expect in the next few years in the field of genetic medicine.
Listen to McNally's Interview
digital rendering of a rainbow-colored DNA double helix against a blue-green background

Epigenetics and Cancer with Ali Shilatifard, PhD

For three decades, Ali Shilatifard, PhD, has dedicated his career to revealing the causes of childhood leukemia and providing detailed molecular insight into the role of epigenetics in cancer. He hopes his discoveries will lead to a super drug that could end childhood leukemia and other cancers.
Listen to Shilatifard's Interview
DNA double helix in the shape of Africa

Precision Medicine for African-Americans with Minoli Perera, PharmD, PhD

The field of pharmacogenomics – using a patient’s genome to predict how well they will respond to medication – is a hot area of medicine today. But, almost all data used in these predictions comes from people of European decent. Minoli Perera, PharmD, PhD, wants to change that. She is a pioneer in the area of pharmacogenomics in African-Americans and has some new discoveries to share.
Listen to Perera's Interview
clipart person showing symptoms of lower back pain

Chronic Pain and the Placebo Effect with A. Vania Apkarian, PhD

Chronic pain, such as lower back pain that lasts for months or years, affects 100 million Americans and costs half a trillion dollars a year in healthcare costs. It is also contributing to the current opioid crisis. A. Vania Apkarian, PhD, explains his recent discoveries related to chronic pain and how placebos may be a very effective option for some.
Listen to Apkarian's Interview
magenta brain cells displaying anomalies

Understanding the Biology of Autism with Feinberg Scientist Peter Penzes, PhD

Peter Penzes, PhD, says the field of autism neurobiology is ripe for discovery and his team at the new Center for Autism and Neurodevelopment at Feinberg is laying the groundwork for new treatments for the disorder.
Listen to Penzes's Interview

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