blog posts DNA nets capture COVID-19 virus in low-cost rapid-testing platform Sep 23, 2022 11:00 am146 views Tiny nets woven from DNA strands can ensnare the spike protein of the virus that causes COVID-19, lighting up the virus for a fast-yet-sensitive diagnostic test – and also impeding the virus from infecting cells, opening a new possible route to antiviral treatment, according to a new study led by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Krannert Center performance combines art, science to examine what makes us human Sep 15, 2022 2:30 pm425 views “The Joy of Regathering” combines science, music and movement to explore humanity’s place in the universe in a Sept. 17 performance at Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. Study tracks waterbird use of Chicago-area wetlands Sep 14, 2022 8:30 am374 views A three-year study in northeastern Illinois and northwestern Indiana found that – even at small scales – emergent wetlands or ponds support many wetland bird species. The study also found that, at least in the years surveyed, the level of urbanization had little effect on most of the studied species’ use of such sites, provided the right kinds of habitat were available. Cowbird chicks do best with two warbler nest mates – not four, not zero, study finds Sep 13, 2022 6:00 pm407 views Brown-headed cowbirds are generalist brood parasites, laying their eggs in the nests of many other bird species and letting the host parents raise their young. A new study seeks to understand the strategies cowbird chicks use to survive in prothonotary warbler nests when they hatch with different numbers of warbler nestlings. The study reveals that a cowbird chick does better with two than with four or zero warbler nest mates. Paper: Valuable antibody patents vulnerable to overly broad doctrinal shift in patent law Aug 17, 2022 8:00 am876 views A new paper co-written by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign legal scholar Jacob S. Sherkow advocates for a middle ground in patent claims involving antibodies, the backbone of modern bioscience. How do we measure community disaster resilience? Aug 12, 2022 8:00 am521 views In a new study, retired Illinois State Water Survey engineer Sally McConkey and Eric R. Larson, a professor of natural resources and environmental sciences at the U. of I., examined the metrics used at a county scale for national assessments to determine whether communities are prepared to withstand and recover from natural disasters such as floods and fires. McConkey spoke to News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about what they found. Study links protecting Indigenous peoples' lands to greater nonhuman primate biodiversity Aug 10, 2022 1:00 pm1005 views By comparing geographic patterns of nonhuman primate biodiversity and human land-use, researchers discovered that areas managed or controlled by Indigenous peoples tend to have significantly more primate biodiversity than nearby regions. They also found that lorises, tarsiers, monkeys and apes whose territories overlap with Indigenous areas are less likely to be classified as vulnerable, threatened or endangered than those living fully outside Indigenous lands. Light-activated technique helps bring cell powerhouses back into balance Aug 2, 2022 11:00 am565 views Light-activated proteins can help normalize dysfunction within cells and could be used as a treatment for diseases such as cancer or mitochondrial diseases, new research suggests. Researchers from the University of Cincinnati, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the University at Buffalo published the results of their study in the journal Nature Communications. The research centers on the functions of mitochondria, organelles within a cell that act as the cell’s “power plant” and source of energy. Study tracks plant pathogens in leafhoppers from natural areas Aug 2, 2022 8:00 am390 views Phytoplasmas are bacteria that can invade the vascular tissues of plants, causing many different crop diseases. While most studies of phytoplasmas begin by examining plants showing disease symptoms, a new analysis focuses on the tiny insects that carry the infectious bacteria from plant to plant. By extracting and testing DNA from archival leafhopper specimens collected in natural areas, the study identified new phytoplasma strains and found new associations between leafhoppers and phytoplasmas known to harm crop plants. Study links insulin resistance, advanced cell aging with childhood poverty Jul 25, 2022 12:15 pm635 views Black adolescents who lived in poverty as children and were pessimistic about their future had accelerated immune cell aging and greater levels of insulin resistance in their mid- to late twenties, according to a study by Allen W. Barton, a professor of human development and family studies. North 'plaza' in Cahokia was likely inundated year-round, study finds Jul 21, 2022 8:00 am2403 views The ancient North American city of Cahokia had as its focal point a feature now known as Monks Mound, a giant earthwork surrounded on its north, south, east and west by large rectangular open areas. These flat zones, called plazas by archaeologists since the early 1960s, were thought to serve as communal areas that served the many mounds and structures of the city. New paleoenvironmental analyses of the north plaza suggest it was almost always underwater, calling into question earlier interpretations of the north plaza’s role in Cahokian society. The study is reported in the journal World Archaeology. In survey, COVID-19 vaccine recipients report changes in menstrual bleeding Jul 15, 2022 1:00 pm1985 views A new analysis of reports from more than 35,000 people offers the most comprehensive assessment so far of menstrual changes experienced by pre- and post-menopausal individuals in the first two weeks after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine. Published in the journal Science Advances, the study adds to the evidence that significant numbers of people experience this unexpected side effect. Study: Individualized eating program helps dieters lose weight, keep it off Jul 14, 2022 10:30 am2688 views An individualized diet plan developed by nutritionists at the U. of I. shows promise at helping users lose weight and keep it off. The program uses a visual tool that encourages dieters to select foods high in protein and fiber. Study explores unusual interaction between viruses, live vaccines Jul 6, 2022 8:00 am1690 views A study of a herpes virus that infects chickens offers new insights into potentially problematic interactions between vaccines made from live viruses and the viruses they are meant to thwart. COVID-19 virus spike protein flexibility improved by human cell's own modifications Jul 5, 2022 8:00 am957 views When the coronavirus causing COVID-19 infects human cells, the cell’s protein-processing machinery makes modifications to the spike protein that render it more flexible and mobile, which could increase its ability to infect other cells and to evade antibodies, a new study from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign found. The researchers created an atomic-level computational model of the spike protein and ran multiple simulations to examine the protein’s dynamics and how the cell’s modifications affected those dynamics. This is the first study to present such a detailed picture of the protein that plays a key role in COVID-19 infection and immunity, the researchers said. Study explores coevolution of mammals and their lice Jul 4, 2022 10:00 am644 views According to a new study, the first louse to take up residence on a mammalian host likely started out as a parasite of birds. That host-jumping event tens of millions of years ago began the long association between mammals and lice, setting the stage for their coevolution and offering more opportunities for the lice to spread to other mammals. Will renaming carp help control them? Jun 27, 2022 8:30 am1127 views Illinois officials this month announced that Asian carp would now be called “copi” in an attempt to make the fish more desirable for eating. Joe Parkos, the director of the Illinois Natural History Survey’s Kaskaskia, Ridge Lake and Sam Parr biological stations in Illinois, spoke with News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates about scientific initiatives to study and control carp/copi fish populations and the potential for rebranding to aid those efforts. Small molecule transports iron in mice, human cells to treat some forms of anemia Jun 24, 2022 9:00 am806 views A natural small molecule derived from a cypress tree can transport iron in live mice and human cells lacking the protein that normally does the job, easing a buildup of iron in the liver and restoring hemoglobin and red blood cell production, a new study found. Staring at yourself during virtual chats may worsen your mood, research finds Jun 13, 2022 1:00 pm1461 views A new study finds that the more a person stares at themself while talking with a partner in an online chat, the more their mood degrades over the course of the conversation. Alcohol use appears to worsen the problem, the researchers found. Reported in the journal Clinical Psychological Science, the findings point to a potentially problematic role of online meeting platforms in exacerbating psychological problems like anxiety and depression, the researchers said. Latin dance may be a step toward better working memory for older Latinos Jun 10, 2022 8:15 am1252 views Latin dance lessons may boost the working memory of Latino older adults and help prevent age-related cognitive decline, says new research by kinesiology and community health professor Susan Aguiñaga. SHIELD program a model for effective pandemic management, data show Jun 9, 2022 7:30 am3428 views In the fall of 2020, the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign welcomed students back for in-person instruction amid the powerful first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The university successfully maintained operations throughout the semester – with zero COVID-19-related deaths or hospitalizations in the campus community – thanks to its “SHIELD: Target, Test, Tell” program. In a sweeping report, the team behind the campuswide collaboration details the innovations in modeling, saliva testing and results reporting that helped mitigate the spread of the virus, and shares the data collected and lessons learned through the process. Corn genetic heritage the strongest driver of chemical defenses against munching bugs May 3, 2022 10:30 am970 views Plants release chemical distress signals when under attack from chewing insects. These “911 calls" alert other bugs that dinner or a nice place to lay their eggs is available nearby. If predatory or parasitic insects detect the right signal, they swoop in like saviors to make a meal out of – or lay their eggs in – the bodies of the herbivore insects. A new study explores the factors that contribute to corn plants’ chemical signaling capacity, comparing how different corn varieties respond to herbivory in the presence or absence of a soil bacterium known to promote plant health. Scientists create viable, reproducing yeast-cyanobacterial hybrids May 2, 2022 9:00 am453 views Every plant, animal or other nucleus-containing cell also harbors an array of miniature “organs” that perform essential functions for the cell. In plants, for example, organelles called chloroplasts photosynthesize to generate energy for the organism. Because some organelles contain their own DNA and resemble single-celled organisms, scientists have long theorized that the evolution of complex life forms got its start when one cell engulfed another and the two learned to live in harmony – eventually forming, and belonging to, a single entity. Study tracks COVID-19 infection dynamics in adults Apr 28, 2022 10:00 am973 views A team led by scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign tracked the rise and fall of SARS-CoV-2 in the saliva and nasal cavities of people newly infected with the virus. The study was the first to follow acute COVID-19 infections over time through repeated sampling and to compare results from different testing methodologies. Machine-learning model can distinguish antibody targets Apr 21, 2022 1:30 pm824 views A new study shows that it is possible to use the genetic sequences of a person’s antibodies to predict what pathogens those antibodies will target. Reported in the journal Immunity, the new approach successfully differentiates between antibodies against influenza and those attacking SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. New approach enhances muscle recovery in aged mice Apr 13, 2022 8:00 am1305 views Scientists have developed a promising new method to combat the age-related losses in muscle mass that often accompany immobility after injury or illness. Their technique, demonstrated in mice, arrests the process by which muscles begin to deteriorate at the onset of exercise after a period of inactivity. Study: First-pass metabolism of alcohol occurs in women's stomachs Mar 22, 2022 8:45 am1129 views Research led by scientists at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign identifies the stomach, not the liver, as the site of alcohol first-pass metabolism in women who had sleeve gastrectomies and control-group peers. Team identifies compound with potent antiseizure effects Mar 22, 2022 8:00 am1097 views Researchers studying epileptic seizures of the temporal lobe – the most common type of epilepsy – discovered a compound that reduces seizures in the hippocampus, a brain region where many such seizures originate. The compound, known as TC-2153, lessened the severity of seizures in mice. Study ties present-day Native American tribe to ancestors in San Francisco Bay Area Mar 21, 2022 2:00 pm1731 views A genomic study of Native peoples in the San Francisco Bay Area finds that eight present-day members of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe share ancestry with 12 individuals who lived in the region several hundred to 2,000 years ago. Vigilantism is an identity for some people, researchers report Mar 10, 2022 8:15 am1729 views A new study finds that some people routinely monitor the behavior of others and are eager to punish those who violate laws or societal norms, especially when they believe authorities have failed to do so. These self-appointed enforcers willingly embrace the job of keeping order, aren’t particularly concerned about accidentally punishing innocent people, and consider themselves kind and moral actors, the researchers found. How do we solve the problem of agricultural nutrient runoff? Mar 10, 2022 8:00 am1784 views Agricultural runoff from Midwestern farms is a major contributor to a vast “dead zone” in the Gulf of Mexico. Nitrogen, phosphorous and other farm nutrients drain into the Mississippi River, which empties into the Gulf, spurring algae to overpopulate and suffocating other aquatic life. Illinois is a main culprit in this ongoing environmental blight. News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates spoke with U. of I. natural resources and environmental sciences researcher Lowell Gentry about possible solutions. Team uses MRI to image epigenetics in the brain Feb 28, 2022 2:00 pm2266 views A multidisciplinary team at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has devised a new approach to 3D imaging that captures DNA methylation, a key epigenetic change associated with learning in the brain. The scientists say their proof-of-concept study in pigs will easily translate to humans, as the new method relies on standard MRI technology and biological markers already in use in human medicine. Can pet dogs be infected with coronavirus? Feb 25, 2022 11:00 am1857 views Researchers at the U. of I. diagnosed a pet dog in Chicago with infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. This is the first dog in Illinois to test positive for the coronavirus. A team led by pathobiology professor Ying Fang made the diagnosis. She talks about the findings and future research in pets. Study identifies key regulator of cell differentiation Feb 21, 2022 2:00 pm974 views Scientists have identified a molecule that regulates the fate of cells, switching off their ability to differentiate into distinct cell types. Stinging insects and their venom are focus of Insect Fear Film Festival Feb 18, 2022 8:30 am588 views The short films and film clips will feature humorous and horrific depictions of stinging insects and their effects. Oncology dietitians rarely ask cancer patients about food insecurity, study finds Feb 11, 2022 8:15 am805 views While many cancer survivors experience food insecurity, few oncology registered dietitians interviewed by U. of I. researchers indicated that they routinely screen their patients for it. How can Illinois address the problem of PFAS pollution? Feb 10, 2022 8:00 am646 views The state of Illinois is investigating the occurrence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances in community water supplies across the state, with an eye toward developing policies to reduce their use. Exposure to PFAS has been linked to increased risk of certain cancers and potential developmental problems in children. News Bureau life sciences editor Diana Yates spoke about the issue with John Scott, a senior chemist with the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center. 'Molecular Velcro' enables tissues to sense, react to mechanical force Feb 9, 2022 1:45 pm779 views The Velcro-like cellular proteins that hold cells and tissues together also perform critical functions when they experience increased tension. A new University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign study observed that when tugged upon in a controlled manner, these proteins – called cadherins – communicate with growth factors to influence in vitro tumor growth in human carcinoma cells. New set of chemical building blocks makes complex 3D molecules in a snap Feb 8, 2022 10:00 am984 views A new set of molecular building blocks aims to make complex chemistry as simple and accessible as a toy construction kit. Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign developed a new class of chemical building blocks that simply snap together to form 3D molecules with complex twists and turns, and an automated machine to assemble the blocks like a 3D printer for molecules. This automation could allow chemists and nonchemists alike to develop new pharmaceuticals, materials, diagnostic probes, catalysts, perfumes, sweeteners and more. 14 Illinois faculty members elected AAAS Fellows Jan 25, 2022 5:45 pm2905 views Fourteen University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign faculty members have been elected 2021 fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Study: Telehealth services for the elderly should include caregivers Jan 24, 2022 4:30 pm602 views Family caregivers are often involved in the day-to-day activities of their older relatives, such as communicating with doctors, helping them navigate the health care system and making decisions that affect their care. When the pandemic hit, forcing health care systems to switch to telehealth visits, many of the caregivers who would have been involved in in-person care were left out of the process, according to a new observational study published in the Annals of Family Medicine. Overweight dogs respond well to high-protein, high-fiber diet Jan 24, 2022 9:00 am1347 views A study of overweight dogs fed a reduced calorie, high-protein, high-fiber diet for 24 weeks found that the dogs’ body composition and inflammatory markers changed over time in ways that parallel the positive changes seen in humans on similar diets. The dogs achieved a healthier weight without losing too much muscle mass, and their serum triglycerides, insulin and inflammatory markers all decreased with weight loss. Researchers simulate behavior of living 'minimal cell' in three dimensions Jan 20, 2022 10:00 am3051 views Scientists report that they have built a living “minimal cell” with a genome stripped down to its barest essentials – and a computer model of the cell that mirrors its behavior. By refining and testing their model, the scientists say they are developing a system that can predict how changes to the genomes, living conditions or physical characteristics of live cells will alter how they function. CRISPR-Cas13 targets proteins causing ALS, Huntington's disease in the mouse nervous system Jan 19, 2022 1:15 pm3616 views A new study by University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers used a targeted CRISPR technique in the central nervous systems of mice to turn off production of mutant proteins that can cause ALS and Huntington’s disease. Rather than the popular DNA-editing CRISPR-Cas9 technique, the new approach uses CRISPR-Cas13, which can target mRNA – the messenger molecule that carries protein blueprints transcribed from DNA. The Illinois team developed Cas13 systems that could target and cut RNAs that code for the proteins that trigger ALS and Huntington’s disease, effectively silencing the genes without disturbing the cell’s DNA. Models predict optimal airplane seating for reduced viral transmission Dec 21, 2021 9:45 am12448 views As airline ticket sales have soared during the holiday season and the omicron variant causes surges of COVID-19 cases, a new University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign study may help passengers and airlines reduce risk of COVID-19 transmission by optimally seating passengers to minimize potential virus spread. Researchers used the most current data on aerosol spread on airplanes to calculate optimal seating assignments for common Boeing aircraft at different capacities. Study: Brain mechanisms involved in learning also drive social conformity Dec 21, 2021 8:00 am3197 views Some of the same brain systems known to play a role in learning from trial and error also are engaged when people conform to social norms, scientists report in a new study. The findings are important, the researchers said, because changing one’s behavior to align with one’s peers can contribute to community-building or – depending on the goals and values of the group – societal breakdown. Gene mutation leads to epileptic encephalopathy symptoms, neuron death in mice Dec 17, 2021 9:00 am1052 views Mice with a genetic mutation seen in patients with epileptic encephalopathy, a severe form of congenital epilepsy, exhibit not only the seizure, developmental and behavioral symptoms of the disorder, but also neural degeneration and inflammation in the brain, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers found in a new study. The findings highlight the mutation as an important part of the disease’s pathology and a potential target for treatment. Atomic structure of antifungal drug confirms unusual mechanism, opens door to less-toxic derivatives Dec 9, 2021 10:15 am892 views Advanced molecular imaging technology has now mapped the structure of a drug widely used to treat fungal infections but whose workings have mystified researchers and physicians for nearly 70 years. In a new study, researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the University of Wisconsin, Madison and the National Institutes of Health described in atomistic detail the structure of the drug amphotericin B, a powerful but toxic antifungal agent. Seeing the structure provides illumination in the researchers’ quest to formulate less-toxic AmB derivatives. Study: Fire hastens permafrost collapse in Arctic Alaska Dec 9, 2021 10:00 am919 views While climate change is the primary driver of permafrost degradation in Arctic Alaska, a new analysis of 70 years of data reveals that tundra fires are accelerating that decline, contributing disproportionately to a phenomenon known as “thermokarst,” the abrupt collapse of ice-rich permafrost as a result of thawing. Nonverbal social interactions – even with unfriendly avatars – boost cooperation, study finds Nov 30, 2021 6:45 am910 views Researchers used animated humanoid avatars to study how nonverbal cues influence people’s behavior. The research offers insight into the brain mechanisms that drive social and economic decision-making. Participants were more willing to cooperate with animated avatars than with static figures representing their negotiation partners, the study revealed. It also found – somewhat surprisingly – that people were more consistently willing to accept unfair offers from unfriendly avatars than from friendly ones.