In this episode of the Epigenetics Podcast, we caught up with Dr. Sarah Diermeier from the University of Otago in New Zealand to talk about her work on the role of long non-coding RNAs in tumor growth and treatment.

Although only 1-2% of the human genome is transcribed into mRNAs that code for proteins, 75% of the genome is transcribed into non-coding RNAs. The function of these non-coding RNAs lie in the regulation of cellular processes and hence, offer the possibility of therapeutic intervention. Dr. Diermeier and her laboratory focus on a subset of these non-coding RNAs: the long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) that have been shown to play a role in breast and colorectal cancers.

This interview discusses how the Diermeier lab uses state-of-the-art techniques to both answer fundamental questions about biological mechanisms and also for translational research approaches. We also touch upon Dr. Diermeier becoming mother during her first years being a PI and the challenges and opportunities faced while raising a child and running a lab, and how the University of Otago and the State of New Zealand support young mothers in science.

This episode also tells the stories behind how Dr. Sarah Diermeier ended up in New Zealand, how her childhood influenced her career path, the role of lncRNAs in cancer, and how she deals with being a young PI and a mother at the same time.



  • R. Gualdi, P. Bossard, … K. S. Zaret (1996) Hepatic specification of the gut endoderm in vitro: cell signaling and transcriptional control (Genes & Development) DOI: 10.1101/gad.10.13.1670
  • L. A. Cirillo, C. E. McPherson, … K. S. Zaret (1998) Binding of the winged-helix transcription factor HNF3 to a linker histone site on the nucleosome (The EMBO journal) DOI: 10.1093/emboj/17.1.244
  • Lisa Ann Cirillo, Frank Robert Lin, … Kenneth S. Zaret (2002) Opening of compacted chromatin by early developmental transcription factors HNF3 (FoxA) and GATA-4 (Molecular Cell) DOI: 10.1016/s1097-2765(02)00459-8 

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