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  • Simulation reveals how bacterial organelle converts sunlight to chemical energy

    Scientists have simulated every atom of a light-harvesting structure in a photosynthetic bacterium that generates energy for the organism. The simulated organelle behaves just like its counterpart in nature, the researchers report. The work is a major step toward understanding how some biological structures convert sunlight into chemical energy, a biological innovation that is essential to life.

  • Artificial intelligence to run the chemical factories of the future

    A new proof-of-concept study details how an automated system driven by artificial intelligence can design, build, test and learn complex biochemical pathways to efficiently produce lycopene, a red pigment found in tomatoes and commonly used as a food coloring, opening the door to a wide range of biosynthetic applications, researchers report.  

  • New approach uses light to stabilize proteins for study

    Researchers have developed a new technique that uses light to control the lifetime of a protein inside the cell. This method will allow scientists to better observe how specific proteins contribute to health, development and disease.

  • Online tool speeds response to elephant poaching by tracing ivory to source

    A new tool uses an interactive database of geographic and genetic information to help authorities quickly identify where the confiscated tusks of African elephants were originally poached.

  • Severe drought shuts down reproduction in copperhead snakes, study finds

    A long-term study of copperhead snakes in a forest near Meriden, Connecticut, revealed that five consecutive years of drought effectively ended the snakes' reproductive output. 

  • Drinking more water improves multitasking ability in children, study finds

    Drinking water not only keeps children hydrated, but also increases their ability to multitask, suggests a new study by researchers at the University of Illinois and their collaborators.

  • Study tracks evolutionary history of metabolic networks

    By analyzing how metabolic enzymes are built and organized, researchers have reconstructed the evolutionary history of metabolism. Their study shows how metabolic networks – which drive every cellular process from protein building to DNA repair – became less random, more modular and more hierarchical over time, the researchers say.

  • Fire-spawned forest fungi hide out in other organisms, study finds

    When a wildfire obliterates a forest, the first life to rise from the ashes is usually a fungus – one of several species that cannot complete its life cycle in the absence of fire. Scientists have long argued about where and how such pyrophilous (fire-loving) fungi survive, sometimes for decades, between fires. A new study finds that some of these fungi hide out in the tissues of mosses and lichens.

  • Potato as effective as carbohydrate gels for boosting athletic performance, study finds

    Consuming potato puree during prolonged exercise works just as well as a commercial carbohydrate gel in sustaining blood glucose levels and boosting performance in trained athletes, scientists report.

  • Prescribing oral opioids for dogs likely doesn’t help them, veterinary experts say

    Sending ailing dogs home with oral opioids may not be an effective way to manage their pain, experts report in a free, online continuing education program recently developed for veterinarians. In light of growing evidence that such drugs don’t work well in dogs – added to the fact that humans sometimes abuse opioids prescribed for pets – the common practice of prescribing oral opioids for dogs in pain should be reexamined, the experts say.

    Anticipating the need among opioid prescribers for additional training to meet regulatory mandates, these experts created an online continuing education program that addresses the problem. The training includes cautions about unwarranted prescription of oral opioids and advice on effective pain management for veterinary patients. 

  • Researchers repurpose failed cancer drug into printable semiconductor

    Many potential pharmaceuticals end up failing during clinical trials, but thanks to new research from the University of Illinois, biological molecules once considered for cancer treatment are now being repurposed as organic semiconductors for use in chemical sensors and transistors.

  • Study finds rising ozone a hidden threat to corn

    Like atmospheric methane and carbon dioxide, ground-level ozone is on the rise. But ozone, a noxious chemical byproduct of fossil fuel combustion, has received relatively little attention as a potential threat to corn agriculture.

    A new study begins to address this lapse by exposing a genetically diverse group of corn plants in the field to future ozone levels. The study found that some members of the corn family tree are more susceptible than others to yield losses under high ozone air pollution.

  • Purple martin migration behavior perplexes researchers

    Purple martins will soon migrate south for their usual wintertime retreat, but this time the birds will be wearing what look like little backpacks, as scientists plan to track their roosting sites along the way. The researchers recently discovered that purple martins are roosting in small forest patches as they migrate from North America to Brazil, an unexpected behavior. The scientists published their findings in the Journal of Field Ornithology. 

  • How are Illinois birds faring?

    According to a new study reported in the journal Science, bird populations in North America have experienced a troubling decline in the past five decades. The scientists estimate the continent has lost close to 3 billion birds, roughly 29% of their total numbers in 1970. Senior wildlife ecologist Thomas J. Benson of the Illinois Natural History Survey discusses the status of birds in Illinois with News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates. Benson leads the Critical Trends Assessment Program, which monitors the biological condition of the state’s forests, wetlands and grasslands, and collects data on plants, birds and arthropods.

  • Researchers build microscopic biohybrid robots propelled by muscles, nerves

    Researchers have developed soft robotic devices driven by neuromuscular tissue that triggers when stimulated by light – bringing mechanical engineering one step closer to developing autonomous biobots.

  • Five professors named University Scholars for Urbana-Champaign campus

    Five Urbana-Champaign campus professors have been named University Scholars in recognition of their excellence in teaching, scholarship and service.

  • Research tracks narcissism from young adulthood to middle age

    The belief that one is smarter, better looking, more successful and more deserving than others – a personality trait known as narcissism – tends to wane as a person matures, a new study confirms. But not for everyone, and not to the same extent.

  • Tiny thermometer measures how mitochondria heat up the cell by unleashing proton energy

    Armed with a tiny new thermometer probe that can quickly measure temperature inside of a cell, University of Illinois researchers have illuminated a mysterious aspect of metabolism: heat generation.

  • New technique gives polyurethane waste a second life

    Polyurethane is used in a wide range of materials, including paints, foam mattresses, seat cushions and insulation. These diverse applications generate large amounts of waste. A team at the University of Illinois has developed a method to break down polyurethane waste and turn it into other useful products.

  • Indigenous scholars confront the power, limitations of genomics

    They traveled to central Illinois from Manitoba, Mexico City, Nova Scotia and 18 U.S. states, bringing expertise in a variety of fields, including anthropology, biomedical engineering, ethics, health and environmental policy, law, neurobiology, and social and behavioral science.

    Participants in the 2019 Summer internship for INdigenous peoples in Genomics spent a week together in the classroom and the lab, learning not only how to amplify and sequence a fragment of their own DNA, but also discussing the implications of genomics research involving their ancestors and communities.

  • Dog down: Effort helps emergency medical staff treat law enforcement K-9s

    Recognizing a gap in care for law enforcement K-9s injured on the job, a team of veterinarians, emergency medical services experts and canine handlers has developed protocols for emergency medical service personnel who may be called upon to help treat and transport the injured dogs.

  • Researchers embrace imperfection to improve biomolecule transport

    While watching the production of porous membranes used for DNA sorting and sequencing, University of Illinois researchers wondered how tiny steplike defects formed during fabrication could be used to improve molecule transport. They found that the defects – formed by overlapping layers of membrane – make a big difference in how molecules move along a membrane surface. Instead of trying to fix these flaws, the team set out to use them to help direct molecules into the membrane pores.

  • Infants expect leaders to right wrongs, study finds

    Infants 17 months of age expect leaders – but not others – to intervene when one member of their group transgresses against another, a new study reveals. The findings add to growing evidence that children in their second year of life have a well-developed understanding of social hierarchies and power dynamics, the researchers say. 

  • Left eye? Right eye? American robins have preference when looking at decoy eggs

    Just as humans are usually left- or right-handed, other species sometimes prefer one appendage, or eye, over the other. A new study reveals that American robins that preferentially use one eye significantly more than the other when looking at their own clutch of eggs are also more likely to detect, and reject, a foreign egg placed in their nest by another bird species – or by a devious scientist.

  • For anemonefish, male-to-female sex change happens first in the brain

    The anemonefish is a gender-bending marvel. It starts out as a male, but can switch to female when circumstances allow – for example, when the only female present dies or disappears. In a new study, researchers found that the male-to-female sex-change occurs first in the fish’s brain and only later involves the gonads – sometimes after a delay of months or years.

  • Human waste an asset to economy, environment, study finds

    Human waste might be an unpleasant public health burden, but scientists at the University of Illinois see sanitation as a valuable facet of global ecosystems and an overlooked source of nutrients, organic material and water.

  • Aggressive, non-native wetland plants squelch species richness more than dominant natives do

    Dominant, non-native plants reduce wetland biodiversity and abundance more than native plants do, researchers report in the journal Ecology Letters. Even native plants that dominate wetland landscapes play better with others, the team found.

  • Biochar may boost carbon storage, but benefits to germination and growth appear scant

    Biochar may not be the miracle soil additive that many farmers and researchers hoped it to be, according to a new University of Illinois study. Biochar may boost the agricultural yield of some soils – especially poor quality ones – but there is no consensus on its effectiveness. Researchers tested different soils’ responses to multiple biochar types and were unable to verify their ability to increase plant growth. However, the study did show biochar’s ability to affect soil greenhouse gas emissions.

  • New insight from Great Barrier Reef coral provides correction factor to global climate records

    Newly developed geological techniques help uncover the most accurate and high-resolution climate records to date, according to a new study. The research finds that the standard practice of using modern and fossil coral to measure sea-surface temperatures may not be as straightforward as originally thought. By combining high-resolution microscopic techniques and geochemical modeling, researchers are using the formational history of Porites coral skeletons to fine-tune the records used to make global climate predictions.

  • Does more rain mean more risk of mosquito-borne diseases in Illinois?

    Experts have ranked May 2019 as one of the wettest Mays on record in central Illinois. Is it possible that the incidence of mosquito-borne illnesses increases with the amount of rainfall? To find out, News Bureau science writer Ananya Sen asked Brian F. Allan, an entomology professor at the University of Illinois.

  • A warming Midwest increases likelihood that farmers will need to irrigate

    If current climate and crop-improvement trends continue into the future, Midwestern corn growers who today rely on rainfall to water their crops will need to irrigate their fields, a new study finds. This could draw down aquifers, disrupt streams and rivers, and set up conflicts between agricultural and other human and ecological needs for water, scientists say.

  • Researchers develop fast, efficient way to build amino acid chains

    Researchers report that they have developed a faster, easier and cheaper method for making new amino acid chains – the polypeptide building blocks that are used in drug development and industry – than was previously available. The new approach purifies the amino acid precursors and builds the polypeptides at the same time, unlike previous methods in which the processes were separate, laborious and time-consuming.

  • 'Citizen scientists' help track foxes, coyotes in urban areas

    As foxes and coyotes adapt to urban landscapes, the potential for encounters with humans necessarily goes up. A team of scientists is taking advantage of this fact to enlist the eyeballs and fingertips of humans – getting them to report online what they see in their own neighborhoods and parks.

  • 'Fettuccine' may be most obvious sign of life on Mars, researchers report

    A rover scanning the surface of Mars for evidence of life might want to check for rocks that look like pasta, researchers report in the journal Astrobiology.

    The bacterium that controls the formation of such rocks on Earth is ancient and thrives in harsh environments that are similar to conditions on Mars, said University of Illinois geology professor Bruce Fouke, who led the new, NASA-funded study.

  • New mutations for herbicide resistance rarer than expected, study finds

    New evidence suggests that the mutation rate in amaranth – a group that includes several agricultural weeds – is quite low and that low-level exposure to herbicides contributes little, if anything, to the onset of herbicide-resistant mutations in this group.

  • Mechanics, chemistry and biomedical research join forces for noninvasive tissue therapy

    A fortuitous conversation between two University of Illinois scientists has opened a new line of communication between biomedical researchers and the tissues they study. The new findings, reported in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, show that high-intensity focused ultrasound waves can penetrate biological tissue to activate molecules able to perform specific tasks.

  • Researchers find protein that suppresses muscle repair in mice

    Researchers report that a protein known to be important to protein synthesis also influences muscle regeneration and regrowth in an unexpected manner. The discovery, reported in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, could one day lead to new methods for treating disorders that result in muscle weakness and loss of muscle mass, the researchers said.

  • Long elected to National Academy of Sciences

    Stephen P. Long, a professor of crop sciences and plant biology at the University of Illinois, has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest professional honors a scientist can receive.

  • Excessive rainfall as damaging to corn yield as extreme heat, drought

    Recent flooding in the Midwest has brought attention to the complex agricultural problems associated with too much rain. Data from the past three decades suggest that excessive rainfall can affect crop yield as much as excessive heat and drought. In a new study, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Illinois linked crop insurance, climate, soil and corn yield data from 1981 through 2016.

  • Study: Mindfulness may help decrease stress in caregivers of veterans

    Mindfulness therapy may be an effective way of mitigating the stress experienced by spouses and other informal caregivers for military veterans, a new study by researchers at the University of Illinois suggests.

  • Injections, exercise promote muscle regrowth after atrophy in mice, study finds

    By injecting cells that support blood vessel growth into muscles depleted by inactivity, researchers say they are able to help restore muscle mass lost as a result of immobility.

  • How does sexual harassment affect young women in physics?

    In a study reported in the journal Physical Review Physics Education Research, nearly 75% of 471 undergraduate women in physics who responded to a survey offered during a professional conference reported having experienced at least one type of sexual harassment – mostly gender harassment – in their field. U. of I. anthropology professor Kathryn Clancy, a co-author of the report, talked to News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about the study, which also examined the respondents’ feelings of belonging and legitimacy as scientists and scholars.

  • Illinois chancellor and chemist elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

    Chancellor Robert J. Jones and chemistry professor Catherine J. Murphy have been elected as members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

  • Team measures puncture performance of viper fangs

    A team that studies how biological structures such as cactus spines and mantis shrimp appendages puncture living tissue has turned its attention to viper fangs. Specifically, the scientists wanted to know, what physical characteristics contribute to fangs’ sharpness and ability to puncture?

  • Smart antioxidant-containing polymer responds to body chemistry, environment

    Oxidants found within living organisms are byproducts of metabolism and are essential to wound-healing and immunity. However, when their concentrations become too high, inflammation and tissue damage can occur. University of Illinois engineers have developed and tested a new drug-delivery system that senses high oxidant levels and responds by administering just the right amount of antioxidant to restore this delicate balance.

  • Low-calorie sweetener derived from lactose gets manufacturing boost from yeast

    The quest to satisfy the sweet tooth without adding to the waistline has a new weapon in its arsenal: a strain of yeast that can metabolize lactose, the sugar in dairy products, into tagatose, a natural sweetener with less than half the calories of table sugar.

  • Microbes in the human body swap genes, even across tissue boundaries, study indicates

    Bacteria in the human body are sharing genes with one another at a higher rate than is typically seen in nature, and some of those genes appear to be traveling – independent of their microbial hosts – from one part of the body to another, researchers report in the journal Scientific Reports.

  • Ralph S. Wolfe, who helped discover new domain of life, dies at 97

    Ralph Stoner Wolfe, a professor emeritus of microbiology at the University of Illinois who contributed to the discovery of a third superkingdom of life, died Tuesday, March 26, at Meadowbrook Health Center in Urbana. He was 97.

  • Counties with more trees and shrubs spend less on Medicare, study finds

    A new study finds that Medicare costs tend to be lower in counties with more forests and shrublands than in counties dominated by other types of land cover. The relationship persists even when accounting for economic, geographic or other factors that might independently influence health care costs, researchers report.

  • Study in mice examines impact of reused cooking oil on breast cancer progression

    University of Illinois researchers found in a new study of mice that consuming the chemical compounds found in thermally abused cooking oil may trigger changes that promote the progression of late-stage breast cancer.