Finding Genius Podcast


Probiotic Problem Solving – Zack Abbott, PhD, Co-Founder and CEO of ZBiotics – Engineering Probiotic Solutions for Health Problems and Health Protections

Zack Abbott, PhD, Co-Founder and CEO of ZBiotics (, discusses his company’s mission, acetaldehyde toxicity, and the future of probiotics for health protection.

Abbott is the creative scientific mind behind the proprietary technology and foundation for ZBiotics. Abbott holds a PhD in microbiology & immunology from the University of Michigan, where he worked on bacterial gene regulation. He earned his bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley, in immunology as well as classical art and archaeology. In his earlier years, Abbott was a researcher, studying HIV vaccines and pursuing novel antibiotics.

Abbott’s company has developed ZBiotics™—the planet’s first genetically engineered/modified probiotics designed to break down a toxic byproduct of alcohol known as acetaldehyde. He explains how the product works to combat the negative effects of alcohol, discussing the live bacteria aspects and the way they have engineered it to fight those negative effects. As he explains, by mimicking what our livers do to metabolize alcohol, ZBiotics takes its inspiration from nature.

Instead of manufacturing the enzyme separately, ZBiotics has engineered some probiotic bacteria to produce this enzyme anew, inside your gut, thereby transferring the trait for acetaldehyde breakdown out of the liver to probiotic bacteria. Abbott talks about the future of ZBiotics, as they look to build new products that can help our bodies handle many potentially problematic issues, from everyday chemicals in alcohol and dairy, to severe contaminants and problems, such as radiation and lead in water health effects.

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Exploring Loops in the Human Genome: Dr. Erez Lieberman Aiden

Dr. Aiden works on analyzing the bending of our human genome, a 3-D complex arrangement that, in part, regulates our cells.This conversation exploreshow each chromatid forms unique loops and bends while patterns emerge across similar cell types,the mechanism that forms these loops—a protein complex that works almost like a lariat knot of a lasso, andwhy a better understanding of this molecular genetics architecture is important for medical treatments.Dr. Erez Lieberman Aiden is an assistant professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor College of Medicine. Over the course of the podcast, he describes how this architectural feat of our cells' genome is formed and the accompanying implications of the nature of this formation.As he explains the complexity of molecular genetics, he begins with a description of how this two-meter-long DNA strand fits inside each of our nuclei. Further, because the sequencing of the human genome is such a recent scientific accomplishment, our understanding of these bending twists and loops is growing almost daily.He explains that this intricate packing of the human genome is not just a storage mechanism. Rather, as is the case with proteins, shape is essential to function—these physical loops form and bring enhancer elements in relation to a significant gene, for example. He adds that typically loops bring promoters of genes in contact with other elements in the genome to exchange information. All this gives rise to genetic regulation, which includes turning genes on and off.Dr. Aiden also explains the practicalities of how these molecular genetics studies are accomplished, such as what microscopy enables them to see. Finally, he discusses some of the implications of this research: scientists ask why we have the same genome in the brain and the heart yet the cells do different jobs. It's clear the gene changes how it folds in different organ systems and that fold changes how each cell functions.For more, see his lab page at , which includes links to all the data from their research, and a recent article he published in Scientific American that explores aspects of these themes:

Working to Better Understand the Genetics of Endocrine Tumors—Dr. Lawrence Kirschner—Clinical Endocrinologist and Scientist

Dr.LawrenceKirschner has over 20 years’ worth of experience as a physician-scientist and clinical endocrinologist, which has allowed him to see directly how research impacts patients on an individual level. On today’s podcast, he shares the details of his work. Tune in to learn the following:What types ofadrenaltumorsand diseases exist and how they manifest in patientsWhy an understanding of the genetics of endocrine tumors is important in order to understand how cancers develop and/or how tumors produce excess hormonesWhy it’s been difficult to conduct clinical trials involving adrenal cancers, and what’s been happening on a national scale in recent years to address thisDr. Kirschner’s sub-specialty is on diseases of thepituitarygland, with particular emphasis on the adrenal glands. Only about one in one million people will eventually develop malignant adrenaltumors, but it’s an aggressive and difficult-to-treat type of cancer. In part, the absence of a good treatment approach for adrenal cancer is due to the fact that it’s so rare, because this makes it difficult to conduct clinical trials. In recent years, however, a national collaborative effort to address this has been set in motion, which Dr. Kirschner sees as very promising for those who currently suffer from adrenal cancer or those who will in the future.He discusses the details of his research, which aims to develop a better understanding of the genetics of endocrine tumors in order to determine how these genes function, and what particularly allows them to cause cell proliferation and/or the excess production of hormones. He talks about the many types of tumors and disease that can affect the adrenals, and the ways in which they can wreak havoc on the body. He dives into the science behind what his research has already discovered and where it’s headed in the near future. Tune in for all the details. For general information about ongoing clinical trials,

On the Latest in Single-Molecule Research—Markita Landry, PhD—University of California, Berkeley, College of Chemistry

Assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at UC Berkeley,MarkitaLandry, joins the podcast to discuss her latest research on nanoparticles andsingle molecule fluorescence methods. She explains the following:How nanoparticles can be used as DNA, RNA, or protein-delivery vessels in a way that confers important advantages to cropsWhat is fluorescence, why it’s useful, and why some materials are naturally fluorescentWhat dopamine imaging studies using nanoscale probes have revealed about the way individual neurons respond to a certain psychoactive drugIn Dr. Landry’s lab, she and her team are researching the uses and advantages of being able to control molecules that are on the scale of the building blocks of life—single nanoparticles the size of a single molecule of water.She discusses the two primary focuses of her research, the first of which uses nanoparticles to deliver DNA, RNA, and protein into plants to improve their ability to resist pathogens and drought conditions. She explains that the technology they’ve created is different than conventional approaches which genetically modify plants, and as a result, the plants they alter will not be subject to lengthy and strict regulatory processes. In turn, this means that they will be easier to bring to market.The second focus of her lab involves chemically altering nanoparticles in a way that will make them responsive to dopamine, an important signaling molecule in the brain that is a target for antidepressants and antipsychotic drugs. Dr. Landry and her team have created probes that fluorescently image dopamine in healthy and diseased brains, and this has led to surprising findings about the way in which individual neurons respond to certain substances.Tune in for the full conversation and visit learn more.