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  • Portrait of Dominika Pindus

    Study links prolonged sedentary time to distractibility in adults with obesity or overweight

    Scientists used accelerometers to track daily activity levels for a week in 89 adults with obesity or overweight and, in a series of tests, measured their ability to multitask and maintain their attention despite distractions. The study revealed that individuals who spent more sedentary time in bouts lasting 20 minutes or more were less able to overcome distractions.

  • Beckman Institute researcher Joey Ramp poses with her dog, Sampson.

    Are science laboratories truly inclusive if not accessible to service-dog handlers?

    According to a new commentary in Disability and Health Journal, people with disabilities who rely on service dogs often are prohibited from bringing their working dogs into teaching and research laboratories. This one barrier can stop them from pursuing careers in science, says Joey Ramp, a researcher in the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology and lead author of the commentary. Ramp spoke about the issue with News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates.

  • Portrait of Aditi Das standing outdoors.

    Lipid epoxides target pain, inflammatory pathways in neurons

    A process known as epoxidation converts two naturally occurring lipids into potent agents that target multiple cannabinoid receptors in neurons, interrupting pathways that promote pain and inflammation, researchers report in a new study. The findings open a new avenue of research in the effort to find alternatives to potentially addictive opioid pain killers.

  • Ngumbi speaks at a podium with an image of a flowering plant projected behind her.

    Ngumbi receives AAAS award for public engagement with science

    University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign entomology professor Esther Ngumbi is the 2021 recipient of the Mani L. Bhaumik Award for Public Engagement with Science, an annual award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science presented to scientists and engineers in recognition of their contributions to public engagement with science.

  • Yee Ming Khaw stands on the left, Makoto Inoue stands on the right.

    Childhood trauma could affect development, treatment of multiple sclerosis, mouse study finds

    Childhood trauma could affect the trajectory of multiple sclerosis development and response to treatment in adulthood, a new study in mice found.

    Mice that had experienced stress when young were more likely to develop the autoimmune disorder and less likely to respond to a common treatment, researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign found. However, treatment that activated an immune-cell receptor mitigated the effects of childhood stress in the mice.

  • Portrait of Junghwan Kim outside a university building.

    Culture shapes willingness to share personal data to reduce COVID-19 spread

    Culture, civic-mindedness and privacy concerns influence how willing people are to share personal location information to help stem the transmission of COVID-19 in their communities, a new study finds. Such sharing includes giving public health authorities access to their geographic information via data gathered from phone calls, mobile apps, credit card purchases, wristband trackers or other technologies.

  • "Group" photo outside the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology on the U. of I. campus.

    Genome-editing tool TALEN outperforms CRISPR-Cas9 in tightly packed DNA

    Researchers used single-molecule imaging to compare the genome-editing tools CRISPR-Cas9 and TALEN. Their experiments revealed that TALEN is up to five times more efficient than CRISPR-Cas9 in parts of the genome, called heterochromatin, that are densely packed. Fragile X syndrome, sickle cell anemia, beta-thalassemia and other diseases are the result of genetic defects in the heterochromatin.

  • Photo of Bita Fayaz Farkhad, an economist and a postdoctoral researcher in psychology at Illinois.

    Medicaid expansion helps uncover undiagnosed HIV infections

    The Medicaid expansion facilitated by the Affordable Care Act led to a 13.9% increase in the identification of undiagnosed HIV infections, says research co-written by a team of University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign experts who study health care and public policy.

  • Professor M. Yanina Pepino seated in her home holding a cup of coffee. A bookcase with books is behind her.

    Online smell, taste challenge offered as early detection tool for COVID-19

    The smell and taste challenge, developed by the Global Consortium for Chemosensory Research, is a web-based tool people can use to easily monitor changes in these senses using their favorite morning beverage.

  • Sociology professor Tim Liao led a recently published study that examined the association between inequality and COVID-19 cases and deaths in U.S. counties.

    COVID-19 cases, deaths in U.S. increase with higher income inequality

    U.S. counties with higher income inequality faced higher rates of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the earlier months of the pandemic, according to a new study led by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign sociology professor Tim Liao. Counties with higher proportions of Black or Hispanic residents also had higher rates, the study found, reinforcing earlier research showing the disparate effects of the virus on those communities.

  • Photo of Bita Fayaz Farkhad, an economist and a postdoctoral researcher in psychology at Illinois.

    Study: Negative mental health effects of pandemic lockdowns spike, then fade

    Social distancing policies correlated with immediate increases in interest in information about “isolation” and “worry” – but those effects tapered off two to four weeks after their respective peaks, says new research co-written by Dolores Albarracín, a professor of psychology and of business administration at Illinois, and Bita Fayaz Farkhad, an economist and a postdoctoral researcher in psychology at Illinois.

  • Professor Isaac Cann.

    Gut bacteria help digest dietary fiber, release important antioxidant

    Dietary fiber found in grains is a large component of many diets, but little is understood about how we digest the fiber, as humans lack enzymes to break down the complex molecules. Some species of gut bacteria break down the fiber in such a way that it not only becomes digestible, but releases ferulic acid, an important antioxidant with multiple health benefits, according to a new study led by researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

  • Photos of both halves of the fossil, showing the assassin bug's banded legs and abdomen, and with a view of the genital capsule called the pygophore, which is shaped like a tiny almond with some hard structures inside.

    50 million-year-old fossil assassin bug has unusually well-preserved genitalia

    The fossilized insect is tiny and its genital capsule, called a pygophore, is roughly the length of a grain of rice. It is remarkable, scientists say, because the bug’s physical characteristics – from the bold banding pattern on its legs to the internal features of its genitalia – are clearly visible and well-preserved. Recovered from the Green River Formation in present-day Colorado, the fossil represents a new genus and species of predatory insects known as assassin bugs.

  • Illinois researchers Aimy Wissa, Marianne Alleyne and Ophelia Bolmin studied the motion of a click beetle’s jump and present the first analytical framework to uncover the physics behind ultrafast motion by small animals.

    Latch, load and release: Elastic motion makes click beetles click, study finds

    Click beetles can propel themselves more than 20 body lengths into the air, and they do so without using their legs. While the jump’s motion has been studied in depth, the physical mechanisms that enable the beetles’ signature clicking maneuver have not. A new study examines the forces behind this super-fast energy release and provides guidelines for studying extreme motion, energy storage and energy release in other small animals like trap-jaw ants and mantis shrimps.

  • A carpenter bee on the Illinois campus last summer.

    Pollinators not getting the 'buzz' they need in news coverage

    A dramatic decline in bees and other pollinating insects presents a threat to the global food supply, yet it’s getting little attention in mainstream news, says a new University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign study. The research is based on a search of millions of news items in the university’s Global News Index, a unique database that draws from thousands of global news sources and decades of their publications.

  • Psychology professors Sanda Dolcos, left, and Florin Dolcos stand in an empty seating area in the Beckman Institute.

    Study: Religion, psychology share methods for reducing distress

    Religious people facing life crises rely on emotion-regulation strategies that psychologists also use, a new study finds. They look for positive ways of thinking about hardship, a practice known to psychologists as “cognitive reappraisal.” They also tend to have confidence in their ability to cope with difficulty, a trait called “coping self-efficacy.” Both have been shown to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

  • Headshot of Jodi Schneider

    Retracted scientific paper persists in new citations, study finds

    Information sciences professor Jodi Schneider is leading an effort to prevent the spread of retracted research.

  • Gustavo Caetano-Anollés

    What happens when the coronavirus mutates?

    New mutations to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 are emerging, including a more-infectious variant first found in the United Kingdom, even as vaccines containing bits of viral genetic material are beginning distribution. In an interview, crop sciences professor Gustavo Caetano-Anollés discusses viral mutation and what it could mean for vaccinations.

  • Portrait of researcher standing in the woods with his arms crossed.

    Model predicts where ticks, Lyme disease will appear next in Midwest states

    By drawing from decades of studies, scientists created a timeline marking the arrival of black-legged ticks, also known as deer ticks, in hundreds of counties across 10 Midwestern states. They used these data – along with an analysis of county-level landscape features associated with the spread of ticks – to build a model that can predict where ticks are likely to appear in future years.

  • Cartoon of a honey bee with a QR code on its back.

    Brain gene expression patterns predict behavior of individual honey bees

    An unusual study that involved bar coding and tracking the behavior of thousands of individual honey bees in six queenless bee hives and analyzing gene expression in their brains offers new insights into how gene regulation contributes to social behavior.

  • Three researchers appear to pose together outside on the university campus.

    Study tracks elephant tusks from 16th century shipwreck

    In 1533, the Bom Jesus – a Portuguese trading vessel carrying 40 tons of cargo including gold, silver, copper and more than 100 elephant tusks – sank off the coast of Africa near present-day Namibia. The wreck was found in 2008, and scientists say they now have determined the source of much of the ivory recovered from the ship.

  • Dr. Martin Burke.

    Antifungal drug improves key cystic fibrosis biomarkers in clinical study

    A drug widely used to treat fungal infections improved key biomarkers in lung tissue cultures as well as in the noses of patients with cystic fibrosis, a clinical study by researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University of Iowa found.

  • The annual Carbon Budget Project report found that among other trends, the global COVID-19 pandemic restrictions caused a record drop in CO2 emissions for 2020, says Illinois atmospheric sciences professor and report co-author Atul Jain.

    2020 a bad year in many respects, but what about global carbon emissions?

    The Global Carbon Project recently published the Global Carbon Budget 2020, giving world leaders access to data on atmospheric carbon concentrations, emissions and trends. Illinois atmospheric scientist Atul Jain was part of an international team of scientists that contributed data to the report. Jain talked about the carbon budget and this year’s findings with News Bureau physical sciences editor Lois Yoksoulian.

  • Portrait of Fan Xuan Chen. He is standing with arms crossed.

    Efforts to combat COVID-19 perceived as morally right

    According to new research, people tend to moralize COVID-19-control efforts and are more willing to endorse human costs emerging from COVID-19-related restrictions than to accept costs resulting from other restraints meant to prevent injury or death. The level of support – and resulting outrage in response to perceived violations of this moral ideal – differs between liberals and conservatives.

  • Photo of a female prothonotary warbler, with her yellow and gray plumage.

    Warmer springs mean more offspring for prothonotary warblers

    Climate change contributes to gradually warming Aprils in southern Illinois, and at least one migratory bird species, the prothonotary warbler, is taking advantage of the heat. A new study analyzing 20 years of data found that the warblers start their egg-laying in southern Illinois significantly earlier in warmer springs. This increases the chances that the birds can raise two broods of offspring during the nesting season, researchers found.

  • Man wearing face mask shown in car's side view mirror. In front of his car, workers wearing safety gear are preparing to test patients for COVID-19.

    Projects offer COVID-19 testing, explore virus transmission's social factors

    U. of I. researchers, local clinicians and volunteers are providing pop-up COVID-19 testing clinics in Rantoul, Illinois, to essential workers and other high-risk residents, and are exploring the behavioral factors behind infection clusters.

  • Carl Bernacchi is one of six faculty members from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign named as AAAS Fellows this year.

    Six Illinois faculty members elected AAAS Fellows

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Six professors at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have been elected 2020 Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

    Evolution, ecology and behavior professor Alison Bell; plant biology professor Carl Bernacchi; bioengineering professor Rohit Bhargava; materials science and engineering professor Paul Braun; chemistry professor Prashant Jain; and materials science and engineering professor Nancy Sottos are among the 489 scientists to be awarded the distinction of AAAS Fellow this year.

  • Portrait of Liviu Mirica standing outdoors. He is wearing a white button-down shirt and dark jacket and is smiling at the camera.

    Team uses copper to image Alzheimer's aggregates in the brain

    A proof-of-concept study conducted in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease offers new evidence that copper isotopes can be used to detect the amyloid-beta protein deposits that form in the brains of people living with – or at risk of developing – Alzheimer’s.

  • Molecular and integrative biology professor Kim Kemper

    Study: Gut hormones' regulation of fat production abnormal in obesity, fatty liver disease

    Gut hormones play an important role in regulating fat production in the body. One key hormone, released a few hours after eating, turns off fat production by regulating gene expression in the liver, but this regulation is abnormal in obesity, researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign found in a new study.

  • Portrait of Gratton and Fabiani

    Cocoa flavanols boost brain oxygenation, cognition in healthy adults

    The brains of healthy adults recovered faster from a mild vascular challenge and performed better on complex tests if the participants consumed cocoa flavanols beforehand, researchers report.

  • Illinois history professor David Sepkoski’s book “Catastrophic Thinking” examines how concerns about threats to the planet and human race came to be.

    Today's catastrophic concerns shaped by past interactions between science, culture

    A global pandemic, wildfires and hurricanes have made 2020 a year of catastrophes. David Sepkoski’s new book “Catastrophic Thinking” looks at how current-day concerns about threats to both the planet and the human race came to be. Sepkoski is a history professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, specializing in the history of science.

  • Individual photos of each of the three researchers described in this release.

    Three Illinois scientists rank among world's most influential

    Three faculty members at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have been named to the 2020 Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list. The list recognizes leading researchers in the sciences and social sciences from around the world. It is based on an analysis of journal article publication and citation data, an objective measure of a researcher’s influence, from 2009-2019.

    The highly cited Illinois researchers this year are: materials science and engineering professor Axel Hoffmann, crop sciences and plant biology professor Stephen Long, and plant biology professor Donald Ort.

  • Sheldon Jacobson and Janet Jokela stand outdoors.

    Study of non-COVID-19 deaths shows 2020 increase in several demographics

    March through May saw a significant increase in deaths over previous years – and not just from COVID-19, says a new study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

    When deaths attributed to COVID-19 were removed from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention totals, the death rate in several demographics outpaced the same period in 2019, the study found. The timeframe represents the first three months of response to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States.

  • Craig Miller stands in the woods facing the camera. He is wearing a red and black plaid shirt and he has his hands in his pockets.

    Does hunting with lead ammunition endanger human, environmental health?

    A recent study from Wesleyan University found that 48% of ground meat samples made from white-tailed deer killed with lead shotgun slugs in Illinois were contaminated with lead, while meat from deer killed by archers contained no lead. Illinois Natural History Survey human dimensions scientist Craig Miller spoke to News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about the risks associated with lead ammunition in hunting.

  • Woodland sunflower and purple joe-pye weed grow under mature bur oak trees.

    Decadeslong effort revives ancient oak woodland

    Vestal Grove in the Somme Prairie Grove forest preserve in Cook County, Illinois, looks nothing like the scrubby, buckthorn-choked tangle that confronted restoration ecologists 37 years ago. Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated team that focused on rooting up invasive plants and periodically burning, seeding native plants and culling deer, the forest again resembles its ancient self, researchers report in the journal PLOS ONE.

  • Researchers have demonstrated a new fabrication technique that allows them replicate the nanostructures found on cicada wings that make them water- and microbe-repellent.

    Cicada-inspired waterproof surfaces closer to reality, researchers report

    A multidisciplinary group that studies the physical and chemical properties of insect wings has demonstrated the ability to reproduce the nanostructures that help cicada wings repel water and prevent bacteria from establishing on the surface. The new technique – which uses commercial nail polish – is economical and straightforward, and the researchers said it will help fabricate future high-tech waterproof materials.

  • Photo of Jacob S. Sherkow, a professor of law at Illinois who studies the ethical and policy implications of advanced biotechnologies

    Paper: Congress must clarify limits of gene-editing technologies

    How the next Congress decides to handle the issue editing human sperm and eggs will affect the science, ethics and financing of genomic editing for decades to come, said Jacob S. Sherkow, a professor of law at Illinois who studies the ethical and policy implications of advanced biotechnologies.

  • Portrait of psychology professor Aron Barbey

    Exercise and nutrition regimen benefits physical, cognitive health

    Researchers studied the effects of a 12-week exercise regimen on 148 active-duty Air Force airmen, half of whom also received a twice-daily nutrient beverage that included protein; the omega-3 fatty acid, DHA; lutein; phospholipids; vitamin D; B vitamins and other micronutrients; along with a muscle-promoting compound known as HMB. Both groups improved in physical and cognitive function, with added gains among those who regularly consumed the nutritional beverage, the team reports.

  • Byungsoo Kim, left, and professor Hyunjoon Kong stand outdoors, socially distanced.

    Octopus-inspired sucker transfers thin, delicate tissue grafts and biosensors

    Thin tissue grafts and flexible electronics have a host of applications for wound healing, regenerative medicine and biosensing. A new device inspired by an octopus’s sucker rapidly transfers delicate tissue or electronic sheets to the patient, overcoming a key barrier to clinical application, report researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and collaborators.

  • Image of the head and face of a timber rattlesnake. It looks concerned.

    Study finds fungal disease of snakes in 19 states, Puerto Rico

    In a collaborative effort between scientists and personnel on U.S. military bases in 31 states and Puerto Rico, researchers surveyed for an infection caused by an emerging fungal pathogen that afflicts snakes. The effort found infected snakes on military bases in 19 states and Puerto Rico, demonstrating that the fungus is more widely distributed than was previously known. The team reports the findings in the journal PLOS ONE.

  • Photo of banyan fig tree with large roots connecting upper branches to the ground. The aerial roots look like mini tree trunks.

    Genomic study reveals evolutionary secrets of banyan tree

    The banyan fig tree Ficus microcarpa is famous for its aerial roots, which sprout from branches and eventually reach the soil. The tree also has a unique relationship with a wasp that has coevolved with it and is the only insect that can pollinate it. In a new study, researchers identify regions in the banyan fig’s genome that promote the development of its unusual aerial roots and enhance its ability to signal its wasp pollinator.

  • Professor Sumiti Vinayak stands outdoors, wearing a black sweater and a blue scarf.

    Repurposed anti-malarial compounds kill diarrheal parasite, study finds

    A class of compounds used for malaria treatment also kill the intestinal parasite Cryptosporidium, a leading global cause of diarrheal disease and death in children that has no cure, a multi-institution collaboration of researchers found in a new study.

  • Professor Ning Wang sits in his lab.

    Gene expression altered by direction of forces acting on cell

    Tissues and cells in the human body are subjected to a constant push and pull – strained by other cells, blood pressure and fluid flow, to name a few. The type and direction of the force on a cell alters gene expression by stretching different regions of DNA, researchers at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and collaborators in China found in a new study.

  • Photo of University of Illinois law professor Jacob S. Sherkow

    Do-it-yourself COVID-19 vaccines fraught with public health problems

    “Citizen scientists” developing homemade COVID-19 vaccines may believe they’re inoculating themselves against the ongoing pandemic, but the practice of self-experimentation with do-it-yourself medical innovations is fraught with legal, ethical and public health issues, says a new paper co-written by University of Illinois law professor Jacob S. Sherkow.

  • Kinesiology graduate student Brett Burrows standing outdoors wearing a dark shirt

    Culturally adapted exercise program helps Hispanic older adults be more active

    A study of 565 Hispanic older adults found that a culturally adapted exercise program improved physical functioning among a population who believe that being sedentary and in poor health is inevitable in later life.

  • Professor Erik Nelson and graduate student Liqian Ma.

    Cholesterol metabolite causes immune system to attack T cells instead of breast cancer, study finds

    In breast cancer tumors, a molecule produced when the body breaks down cholesterol hijacks the myeloid immune cells that normally arm T cells to fight cancer, a new study in mice found. Instead, the hijacked myeloid cells disarm the T cells and even tell them to self-destruct.

  • Portrait of Jessica Brinkworth, standing facing the camera and smiling. She is outdoors on the U. of I. campus.

    Cell-autonomous immunity shaped human evolution

    Every human cell harbors its own defenses against microbial invaders, relying on strategies that date back to some of the earliest events in the history of life. Understanding this “cell-autonomous immunity” is essential to understanding human evolution and human medicine, researchers report.

  • Top and bottom views of a microfluidic cartridge

    Study: Portable, point-of-care COVID-19 test could bypass the lab

    In a new study, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign researchers have demonstrated a prototype of a rapid COVID-19 molecular test and a simple-to-use, portable instrument for reading the results with a smartphone in 30 minutes, which could enable point-of-care diagnosis without needing to send samples to a lab.

  • Stunning closeup of a leopard in a tree. The leopard is lit with an intense yellow morning or evening light. It is peering into the camera and looks relaxed.

    Serengeti leopard population densities healthy but vary seasonally, study finds

    A study of camera-trap data in the Serengeti finds that leopard population densities vary between wet and dry seasons, likely in response to the availability of prey and the presence of other top predators. 

  • Aerial view of the U. of I. campus.

    U of I to lead two of seven new national artificial intelligence institutes

    The National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture are announcing an investment of more than $140 million to establish seven artificial intelligence institutes in the U.S. Two of the seven will be led by teams at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

    The USDA-NIFA will fund the AI Institute for Future Agricultural Resilience, Management and Sustainability at the U. of I. Illinois computer science professor Vikram Adve will lead the AIFARMS Institute.

    The NSF will fund the AI Institute for Molecular Discovery, Synthetic Strategy and Manufacturing, also known as the Molecule Maker Lab Institute. Huimin Zhao, a U. of I. professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering and of chemistry, will lead this institute.