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  • Timothy Tana dn Nicholas Wu stand in a laboratory.

    Antibodies from original strain COVID-19 infection don't bind to variants, study finds

    People infected with the original strain of the virus that causes COVID-19 early in the pandemic produced a consistent antibody response, making two main groups of antibodies to bind to the spike protein on the virus’s outer surface. However, those antibodies don’t bind well to newer variants, a new study from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign found.

  • Photo of Stephen Moose

    Is the future of agriculture digital?

    With colleagues at several institutions, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign crop sciences professor Stephen Moose will lead the development of a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center for Research on Programmable Plant Systems. With $25 million in newly announced funding, the center will create an Internet of Living Things to learn the intimate biological language of plants and their associated organisms. Moose spoke with News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about this new initiative.

  • Avocados change belly fat distribution in women, controlled study finds

    An avocado a day could help redistribute belly fat in women toward a healthier profile, according to a new study from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and collaborators. One hundred and five adults with overweight and obesity participated in a randomized controlled trial that provided one meal a day for 12 weeks. Women who consumed avocado as part of their daily meal had a reduction in deeper visceral abdominal fat.

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

    Paper: Use patent law to curb unethical human-genome editing

    Patent law could create an “ethical thicket” that discourages access to the medically and ethically dubious practice of heritable human-genome editing, said Jacob S. Sherkow, a professor of law at Illinois and bioethics expert.

  • Two researchers in a stand of sorghum.

    New imaging, machine-learning methods speed effort to reduce crops' need for water

    Scientists have developed and deployed a series of new imaging and machine-learning tools to discover attributes that contribute to water-use efficiency in crop plants during photosynthesis and to reveal the genetic basis of variation in those traits.

  • An artist's rendering of Wnt proteins in a cell membrane

    Light can trigger key signaling pathway for embryonic development, cancer

    Blue light is illuminating new understanding of a key signaling pathway in embryo development, tissue maintenance and cancer genesis.

    Illinois researchers developed a method that makes membrane-bound receptors reactive to light, triggering the Wnt pathway.

  • Photo of professor Yong-Su Jin standing with his arms folded

    Team develops bioprocess for converting plant materials into valuable chemicals

    A team of scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign developed a bioprocess using engineered yeast that completely and efficiently converted plant matter consisting of acetate and xylose into high-value chemicals.

  • Photo of Yilan Xu, a professor of agricultural and consumer economics at Illinois

    Study: Domestic control of COVID-19 takes priority over international travel bans

    A new paper co-written by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign economist Yilan Xu says taming domestic transmission of COVID-19 ought to be prioritized over international travel bans.

  • Photo of researchers standing in a laboratory with equipment and supplements used in the study on the bench in front of them.

    Study identifies molecule that stimulates muscle-building

    In a randomized control study of 10 healthy young men, researchers compared how consuming the single amino acid leucine or its two-molecule equivalent, dileucine, influenced muscle-building and breakdown. They found that dileucine boosts the metabolic processes that drive muscle growth 42% more than free leucine does.

  • Photo of researchers.

    Study offers insight into underlying causes of seizure disorder in babies

    Researchers report that infantile spasms, a rare but serious seizure disorder in babies, appear to be the result of a molecular pathway gone awry. In their study of a mouse model of the disorder, the researchers discovered that genetic mutations associated with the disease impair a pathway that is involved in building new synapses in the hippocampus, a brain region essential to learning and memory.

  • Mikihiro Sato, professor of recreation, sport and tourism

    What impact do the Olympics and mass-sporting events have on public health?

    Attending high-profile and mass-participation sporting events may increase individuals’ physical activity levels and enhance their emotional well-being, according to Mikihiro Sato, a professor of recreation, sport and tourism.

  • Screenshot from a video of a black-crested titmouse stealing fur from a sleeping fox, from the YouTube channel Texas Backyard Wildlife.

    Paper: Some birds steal hair from living mammals

    A new paper in the journal Ecology documents an unusual behavior among titmice, chickadees and tits: A bird will land on an unsuspecting mammal and, cautiously and stealthily, pluck out some of its hair.

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

    Should the government implement a vaccine passport system?

    Vaccine passports strike the right balance between letting life go on for the vaccinated while still being realistic about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, said Jacob S. Sherkow, a professor of law at Illinois and bioethics expert.

  • Photo of three researchers standing on campus.

    Study tests microplasma against middle-ear infections

    In a new study, researchers explore the use of microplasma – a highly focused stream of chemically excited ions and molecules – as a noninvasive method for attacking the bacterial biofilms that resist antibiotic treatment in the middle ear.

  • Molecular model of ErSO, an anticancer compound

    New approach eradicates breast cancer in mice

    A new approach to treating breast cancer kills 95-100% of cancer cells in mouse models of human estrogen-receptor-positive breast cancers and their metastases in bone, brain, liver and lungs. The newly developed drug, called ErSO, quickly shrinks even large tumors to undetectable levels.

  • Portrait of the researcher.

    How can the world prevent emerging infectious diseases, protect food security?

    According to a new report co-written by Illinois Natural History Survey postdoctoral researcher Valeria Trivellone, climate change, poverty, urbanization, land-use change and the exploitation of wildlife all contribute to the emergence of new infectious diseases, which, in turn, threaten global food security. Trivellone spoke with News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about how global authorities can tackle these intertwined challenges.

  • Sheldon Jacobson and Janet Jokela stand outdoors.

    2020 deadlier than previous five years, even with COVID-19 numbers removed, study finds

    An upswing in death rates from non-COVID-19 causes in 2020 hit hard for men ages 15-64, according to a new study by computer science professor Sheldon H. Jacobson and internal medicine professor Janet Jokela.

  • An Illinois student provides a saliva sample for a COVID-19 test.

    Frequent COVID-19 testing key to efficient, early detection, study finds

    The chance of detecting the virus that causes COVID-19 increases with more frequent testing, no matter the type of test, a new study found. Both polymerase chain reaction and antigen tests, paired with rapid results reporting, can achieve 98% sensitivity if deployed at least every three days.

  • Portrait of Dr. Sam Sander

    How do July 4 celebrations affect wildlife?

    Celebrating the nation’s Independence Day with fireworks is an enduring tradition, but fireworks can be a source of distress and danger to wildlife. Dr. Sam Sander, a clinical professor of zoo and wildlife medicine at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, spoke with News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about how fireworks affect wildlife and the environment, and how to minimize the risks.

  • Barbara Fiese and Kelly Freeman Bost sitting at a table in the Family Resiliency Center on the U. of I. campus.

    Consistent bedtime routines in infancy improve children's sleep habits through age 2

    Consistent bedtime routines and activities such as reading books beginning when infants are 3 months old promote better sleep habits through age 2, according to a study by researchers at the Family Resiliency Center.

  • Professor Yi Lu

    DNAzymes could outperform protein enzymes for genetic engineering

    Move over, gene-editing proteins – there’s a smaller, cheaper, more specific genetic engineering tool on the block: DNAzymes – small DNA molecules that can function like protein enzymes.

    Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have developed a technique that, for the first time, allows DNAzymes to target and cut double-stranded DNA, overcoming a significant limitation of the technology.

  • Food science professor M. Yanina Pepino sitting in the kitchen of her home

    Cancer survivors' tongues less sensitive to tastes than those of healthy peers

    Head and neck cancer survivors' tongues are less sensitive to bitter, salty and sweet tastes, and this taste dysfunction lasts for years, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign scientists found in a new study.

  • Photo of a young woman inside an MRI suite wearing an imaging cap with many sensors attached.

    Combining three techniques boosts brain-imaging precision

    Researchers have developed a method to combine three brain-imaging techniques to more precisely capture the timing and location of brain responses to a stimulus.

  • Portrait of researcher.

    Cholesterol metabolite induces production of cancer-promoting vesicles

    Scientists report that a byproduct of cholesterol metabolism causes some cells to send out cancer-promoting signals to other cells. These signals are packaged in membrane-bound compartments called extracellular vesicles.

  • Researchers stand in a natural area with prairie plants in the background.

    Beneficial arthropods find winter sanctuary in uncultivated field edges, study finds

    Many species of ground-dwelling beetles, ladybugs, hoverflies, damsel bugs, spiders and parasitic wasps kill and eat pest species that routinely plague farmers, including aphids and corn rootworm larvae and adults. But the beneficial arthropods that live in or near cropped lands also are susceptible to insecticides and other farming practices that erase biodiversity on the landscape.

    A new study reveals that beneficial arthropods are nearly twice as abundant and diverse in uncultivated field edges in the spring as they are in areas that are cropped – if those field edges are rich in an array of flowers and other broad-leaved plants and not just mowed grass.

  • A microscope image of brilliantly colored crystals in a kidney stone.

    Geology helps map kidney stone formation from tiny to troublesome

    Advanced microscope technology and cutting-edge geological science are giving new perspectives to an old medical mystery: How do kidney stones form, why are some people more susceptible to them and can they be prevented?

  • Soybean field and sunshine

    Study: Fluorescent light clarifies relationship between heat stress and crop yield

    Scientists report that it is possible to detect and predict heat damage in crops by measuring the fluorescent light signature of plant leaves experiencing heat stress. If collected via satellite, this fluorescent signal could support widespread monitoring of growth and crop yield under the heat stress of climate change, the researchers say.

  • Photo of research team standing together outside in front of a brick wall and building.

    Portable, affordable, accurate, fast: Team invents new COVID-19 test

    A new coronavirus test can get accurate results from a saliva sample in less than 30 minutes, researchers report in the journal Nature Communications. Many of the components of the hand-held device used in this technology can be 3D-printed, and the test can detect as little as one viral particle per 1-microliter drop of fluid.

  • Portrait of three, smiling researchers standing outside with a white-flowering tree, bushes and a brick wall in the background.

    Intoxication brings strangers physically closer, study finds

    In a study with pandemic-related implications, researchers report that strangers who consume alcohol together may keep their distance initially – but draw physically closer as they become intoxicated. No previous studies have tested the effects of alcohol consumption on social distance, the researchers say. They report the new findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

  • Researcher sits on a desk with readouts on computer monitors surrounding him and a magnetic resonance imaging device in the background.

    Team builds better tool for assessing infant brain health

    Researchers have created a new, open-access tool that allows doctors and scientists to evaluate infant brain health by assessing the concentration of various chemical markers, called metabolites, in the brain. The tool compiled data from 140 infants to determine normal ranges for these metabolites.

  • Photo of rusty patched bumble bee on a bee balm flower.

    Spring forest flowers likely a key to bumble bee survival, Illinois study finds

    Losses of springtime flowers in wooded landscapes likely undermine bumble bee health and survival, researchers report.

  • Portrait of the researcher.

    Geographies of death: Study maps COVID-19 health disparities in Greater Santiago

    People up to age 40 living in economically depressed municipalities in the Greater Santiago, Chile, metropolitan area were three times more likely to die as a result of the infection than their counterparts in wealthier areas, researchers report in the journal Science.

  • Mina Raj smiles at the camera, wearing a tan blazer over a blue top.

    Young adults may provide care for older relatives much more frequently than thought

    Young adults and teens may provide care for adult relatives much more often than previously thought, according to a new study, though they worry about detriments to educational or career goals and would like more training and support. 

  • Portrait of the researchers outside. Daniel Clark is holding a nest and egg.

    Team cracks eggs for science

    Avian brood parasites lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species, forcing the hosts to do the hard work of raising the unrelated young. A team of scientists wanted to simulate the task of piercing an egg – a tactic that only a minority of host birds use to help grasp and eject the foreign eggs. Published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, the study offers insight into some of the physical challenges the discriminating host birds face.

  • Photo of an infant in the IKIDS program seated on her mother’s lap. The infant has a sticker on her forehead that allows an eye-tracking instrument to orient to her eyes.

    Study links prenatal phthalate exposure to altered information processing in infants

    Researchers have found evidence linking pregnant women’s exposure to phthalates to altered cognitive outcomes in their infants.

  • Photo of researchers standing in an exercise laboratory.

    More protein doesn't mean more strength in resistance-trained middle-aged adults

    A 10-week muscle-building and dietary program involving 50 middle-aged adults found no evidence that eating a high-protein diet increased strength or muscle mass more than consuming a moderate amount of protein while training. The intervention involved a standard strength-training protocol with sessions three times per week. None of the participants had previous weightlifting experience.

  • Professor Brian Cunningham

    Microscope that detects individual viruses could power rapid diagnostics

    A fast, low-cost technique to see and count viruses or proteins from a sample in real time, without any chemicals or dyes, could underpin a new class of devices for rapid diagnostics and viral load monitoring, including HIV and the virus that causes COVID-19.

  • Camera-trap closeup of a puma walking through a dark forest.

    Study: Black bears are eating pumas' lunch

    A camera-trap study in the Mendocino National Forest in Northern California reveals that black bears are adept at finding and stealing the remains of adult deer killed by pumas. This “kleptoparasitism” by bears, as scientists call it, reduces the calories pumas consume in seasons when the bears are most active. Perhaps in response to this shortage, the pumas hunt more often and eat more small game when the bears are not in hibernation.

  • Photo of three researchers standing in a field of sorghum.

    Not just CO2: Rising temperatures also alter photosynthesis in a changing climate

    A new review explores how increasing temperatures influence plant growth and viability despite the higher concentrations of atmospheric CO2.

  • A group photo of Illinois researchers, standing outdoors and socially distanced.

    'Hunker down' stress genes boosted in women who live in violent neighborhoods

    The chronic stress of living in neighborhoods with high rates of violence and poverty alters gene activity in immune cells, according to a new study of low-income single Black mothers on the South Side of Chicago.  

    The changes in stress-related gene expression reflect the body’s “hunker down” response to long-term threat. This has implications for health outcomes in communities of color and other marginalized populations, said researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and collaborators.

  • Portrait of David Strauser

    Study compares discrimination claims of younger and older Americans with cancer

    Researchers assessed the employment discrimination claims made by younger and older American adults with cancer and found substantial differences in the nature – and outcomes – of their claims.

  • Portrait of doctoral student Yifan Hu.

    Veterans see positive changes in emotional resilience after intervention

    A six-week training program designed to strengthen resilience against emotional distress in military veterans was associated with positive changes in brain function and increased confidence in their ability to regulate emotions, researchers report.

  • Professor Auinash Kalsotra stands wearing a suit.

    Division of labor within regenerating liver maintains metabolism, mouse study finds

    The liver has a rare superpower among body organs – the ability to regenerate, even if 70% of its mass is removed. It also keeps up its metabolic and toxin-removing work during the process of regeneration, thanks to a subset of cells that expand their workload while the rest focus on multiplication, a new study in mice found.

  • Image of Insect Fear Film Festival poster with a flea riding a penny-farthing.

    Online edition of Insect Fear Film Festival to feature pandemic vectors: fleas

    The Insect Fear Film Festival Featuring Fleas will look at the insects as entertainment in the form of flea circuses, as pests and as vectors of disease.

  • The researchers stand indoors in a brick atrium.

    Study: Preschoolers with higher cardiorespiratory fitness do better on cognitive tests

    Researchers report that 4-6-year-old children who walk further than their peers during a timed test – a method used to estimate cardiorespiratory health – also do better on cognitive tests and other measures of brain function. Published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine, the study suggests that the link between cardiorespiratory fitness and cognitive health is evident even earlier in life than previously appreciated.

  • Xiaohui Zhang, left, Andrew Smith, Kelly Swanson, Erik Nelson, Mark Anastasio and Junlong Geng are part of a team working to clarify the relationship between obesity and inflammation while on the hunt for obesity-fighting drug therapies.

    3D microscopy clarifies understanding of body's immune response to obesity

    Researchers who focus on fat know that some adipose tissue is more prone to inflammation-related comorbidities than others, but the reasons why are not well understood. Thanks to a new analytical technique, scientists are getting a clearer view of the microenvironments found within adipose tissue associated with obesity. This advance may illuminate why some adipose tissues are more prone to inflammation – leading to diseases like type 2 diabetes, cancer and cardiovascular disorders – and help direct future drug therapies to treat obesity.

  • 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.