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A number of algorithmic and protocol assumptions taken for granted in the design of existing wireless communication technologies need to be revisited in extending their scope to the new cognitive radio (CR) paradigm. The fact that channel availability can rapidly change over time and the need for coordinated quiet periods in order to quickly and robustly detect the presence of incumbents, are just some of the examples of the unique challenges in protocol and algorithm design for CR networks and, in particular, in the medium access control (MAC) layer. With this in mind, in this paper we introduce a novel cognitive MAC (C-MAC) protocol for distributed multi-channel wireless networks. C-MAC operates over multiple channels, and hence is able to effectively deal with, among other things, the dynamics of resource availability due to primary users and mitigate the effects of distributed quiet periods utilized for primary user signal detection. In C-MAC, each channel is logically divided into recurring superframes which, in turn, include a slotted beaconing period (BP) where nodes exchange information and negotiate channel usage. Each node transmits a beacon in a designated beacon slot during the BP, which helps in dealing with hidden nodes, medium reservations, and mobility. For coordination amongst nodes in different channels, a rendezvous channel (RC) is employed that is decided dynamically and in a totally distributed fashion. Among other things, the RC is used to support network-wide multicast and broadcast which are often neglected in existing multi-channel MAC protocols. We present promising performance results of C- MAC. We also describe our efforts to implement features of C- MAC in a real CR prototype with Atheros chipset, which currently includes the spectrum sensing module and preliminary features of C-MAC.