blog postsEffort clarifies major branch of insect tree of lifeNov 26, 2018 2:00 pm1292 views The insects known as Hemiptera are not a particularly glamorous bunch. This group includes stink bugs, bed bugs, litter bugs, scale insects and aphids. Their closest relatives are thrips, bark lice and parasitic lice. But with a massive number of species, two-thirds of which are still unknown to science, these insects together make up one of the twiggiest branches on the tree of life. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences collected a vast amount of molecular data on these insects and used the information to help tease out their family relationships and evolutionary history.Scientists study puncture performance of cactus spinesNov 20, 2018 6:00 pm581 views Researchers discovered that the same biomechanical traits that allow the barbed spines of the jumping cholla and other cacti to readily penetrate animal flesh also make the spines more difficult to dislodge.Study: At-risk mothers receive less support, information on breastfeedingNov 5, 2018 12:30 pm800 views Single mothers, those with less education and mothers enrolled in the WIC Program may receive less information and support with breastfeeding, University of Illinois researchers found in a new study.Caterpillar, fungus in cahoots to threaten fruit, nut crops, study findsNov 5, 2018 8:00 am448 views New research reveals that Aspergillus flavus, a fungus that produces carcinogenic aflatoxins that can contaminate seeds and nuts, has a multilegged partner in crime: the navel orangeworm caterpillar, which targets some of the same nut and fruit orchards afflicted by the fungus. Scientists report in the Journal of Chemical Ecology that the two pests work in concert to overcome plant defenses and resist pesticides.Berenbaum named PNAS editor-in-chiefOct 31, 2018 8:30 am1111 views University of Illinois entomology professor and department head May Berenbaum, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and longtime editorial contributor to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and other journals, has been appointed editor-in-chief of PNAS, effective Jan. 1.Four factors influence social media reach of public health tweets, study saysOct 30, 2018 8:30 am662 views Four factors account for public health messages accruing retweets on Twitter, says research co-written by U. of. I. social psychology expert Dolores Albarracin and a team of U. of I. graduate students.Study finds potential benefits of wildlife-livestock coexistence in East AfricaOct 15, 2018 9:45 am794 views A study of 3,588 square kilometers of privately owned land in central Kenya offers evidence that humans and their livestock can, in the right circumstances, share territory with zebras, giraffes, elephants and other wild mammals – to the benefit of all.Honey bee researcher Gene Robinson elected to National Academy of MedicineOct 15, 2018 8:15 am2076 views Entomology professor Gene Robinson, an international leader in honey bee research, has been elected to the National Academy of Medicine “for pioneering contributions to understanding the roles of genes in social behavior.” Robinson directs the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.Effects of epilepsy on neural activity in mice fluctuate with reproductive cycle, study findsOct 12, 2018 10:00 am1115 views Mice with epilepsy have altered patterns of neuron activity in the portion of the brain that controls the reproductive endocrine system, University of Illinois researchers report in a new study. Furthermore, the differences in neuron activity in female mice fluctuate across the reproductive cycle, the team found.‘Native America’ documentary including work by U. of I. researchers at Cahokia to be screened on campusOct 2, 2018 8:45 am2123 views University of Illinois anthropologists talk about their work at Cahokia in the new documentary “Native America,” about the cities built by Native Americans.Study: Damaged liver cells undergo reprogramming to regenerateSep 26, 2018 8:15 am1120 views In Greek mythology, Zeus punishes the trickster Prometheus by chaining him to a rock and sending an eagle to eat a portion of his liver every day, in perpetuity. It was the right organ to target – the liver has the ability to regenerate itself, though not overnight nor for eternity. New research conducted by biochemists at the University of Illinois has determined how damaged liver cells repair and restore themselves through a signal to return to an early stage of postnatal organ development.Author David Quammen to speak about his book featuring microbiologist Carl WoeseSep 20, 2018 8:00 am433 views Author David Quammen will speak at the University of Illinois about his new book, which features the revolutionary work of microbiologist Carl R. Woese.Researchers develop microbubble scrubber to destroy dangerous biofilmsSep 19, 2018 10:15 am1711 views Stiff microbial films often coat medical devices, household items and infrastructure such as the inside of water supply pipes, and can lead to dangerous infections. Researchers have developed a system that harnesses the power of bubbles to propel tiny particles through the surfaces of these tough films and deliver an antiseptic deathblow to the microbes living inside.Study: Kidney stones have distinct geological historiesSep 13, 2018 4:00 am2343 views A geologist, a microscopist and a doctor walk into a lab and, with their colleagues from across the nation, make a discovery that overturns centuries of thought about the nature and composition of kidney stones. The team’s key insight, reported in the journal Scientific Reports, is that kidney stones are built up in calcium-rich layers that resemble other mineralizations in nature, such as those forming coral reefs or arising in hot springs, Roman aqueducts or subsurface oil fields.Study: Large-scale wind and solar farms in the Sahara would increase heat, rain, vegetationSep 6, 2018 9:45 am2297 views Wind and solar farms are known to have local effects on heat, humidity and other factors that may be beneficial – or detrimental – to the regions in which they are situated. A new climate-modeling study finds that a massive wind and solar installation in the Sahara Desert and neighboring Sahel would increase local temperature, precipitation and vegetation. Overall, the researchers report, the effects would likely benefit the region.Our brains process irony in emojis, words in the same waySep 5, 2018 12:45 pm1789 views The brain processes ironic or sarcastic emojis in the same way it does ironic or sarcastic words.Discovery: Mechanical properties of viral DNA determine the course of infectionSep 4, 2018 8:00 am2370 views A new study reveals a previously unknown mechanism that governs whether viruses that infect bacteria will quickly kill their hosts or remain latent inside the cell. The discovery, reported in the journal eLife, also may apply to viruses that infect humans and other animals, the researcher said.Infants can distinguish between leaders and bullies, study findsSep 3, 2018 2:00 pm1203 views A new study finds that 21-month-old infants can distinguish between respect-based power asserted by a leader and fear-based power wielded by a bully.Color-changing sensor detects signs of eye damage in tearsAug 31, 2018 8:00 am2184 views A new point-of-care rapid-sensing device can detect a key marker of eye injury in minutes – a time frame crucial to treating eye trauma. University of Illinois researchers developed a gel laden with gold nanoparticles that changes color when it reacts with a teardrop containing ascorbic acid, released from a wound to the eye. In a new study published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics, the researchers used the sensor, called OjoGel, to measure ascorbic acid levels in artificial tears and in clinical samples of fluid from patients’ eyes. Ancient African herders had lasting ecological impact on grazed landsAug 29, 2018 12:00 pm533 views Ancient animal herders added to the ecological richness and diversity of the African savanna thousands of years ago – an effect that persists to the present day, a new study finds. The herders’ practice of penning their cattle, goats and sheep at night created nutrient-rich grassy glades, called hotspots, that still attract wildlife and have increased habitat diversity in the region, researchers report in the journal Nature.Post-workout muscle building and repair blunted in obese adults, study findsAug 28, 2018 8:30 am1136 views Obesity is associated with a host of health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. According to a new study reported in the Journal of Physiology, obesity also diminishes a person’s ability to build muscle after engaging in resistance exercise.Connectivity explains ecosystem responses to rainfall, droughtAug 27, 2018 2:00 pm449 views In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers reveal techniques – inspired by the study of information theory – to track how changes in precipitation alter interactions between the atmosphere, vegetation and soil at two National Science Foundation Critical Zone Observatory sites in the western United States.A professor not afraid to cross academic boundariesAug 23, 2018 11:30 am809 views Illinois professor Ruby Mendenhall is focused on issues of poverty, inequality and violence, but crosses many academic boundaries in search of answers.Pointy eggs more likely to stay put in birds’ cliffside nests, study findsAug 22, 2018 9:00 am446 views Natural selection – that merciless weeder-outer of biological designs that are out of step with the times – also is a wily shaper of traits. Exhibit A is the pointy murre egg, according to new research published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.New CRISPR technique skips over portions of genes that can cause diseaseAug 16, 2018 11:30 am5151 views In a new study in cells, University of Illinois researchers have adapted CRISPR gene-editing technology to cause the cell’s internal machinery to skip over a small portion of a gene when transcribing it into a template for protein building. This gives researchers a way not only to eliminate a mutated gene sequence, but to influence how the gene is expressed and regulated. Such targeted editing could one day be useful for treating genetic diseases caused by mutations in the genome, such as Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy, Huntington’s disease or some cancers.Study: Human wastewater valuable to global agriculture, economicsAug 15, 2018 12:45 pm1662 views It may seem off-putting to some, but human waste is full of nutrients that can be recycled into valuable products that could promote agricultural sustainability and better economic independence for some developing countries.For now, Illinois’ imperiled eastern massasauga rattlesnakes retain their genetic diversityAug 13, 2018 8:30 am1288 views A long-term study of eastern massasauga rattlesnakes in Illinois reveals that – despite their alarming decline in numbers – the few remaining populations have retained a surprising amount of genetic diversity.Genomic study ties insect evolution to the ability to detect airborne odorsAug 2, 2018 8:15 am567 views A new study reveals that all insects use specialized odorant receptors that enable them to detect and pursue mates, identify enemies, find food and – unfortunately for humans – spread disease. This puts to rest a recent hypothesis that only some insects evolved the ability to detect airborne odors as an adaptation to flight, the researchers said.Nowhere to hide: Molecular probe illuminates elusive cancer stem cells in live miceAug 1, 2018 9:00 am1586 views After a primary tumor is treated, cancer stem cells may still lurk in the body, ready to metastasize and cause a recurrence of the cancer in a form that’s more aggressive and resistant to treatment. University of Illinois researchers have developed a molecular probe that seeks out these elusive cells and lights them up so they can be identified, tracked and studied not only in cell cultures, but in their native environment: the body. In a paper published in the journal ACS Central Science, the researchers described the probe’s effectiveness in identifying cancer stem cells in cultures of multiple human cancer cell lines as well as in live mice.Study: In darters, male competition drives evolution of flashy fins, bodiesAug 1, 2018 8:00 am363 views Scientists once thought that female mate choice alone accounted for the eye-catching color patterns seen in some male fish. But for orangethroat darters, male-to-male competition is the real force behind the flash, a new study finds.Chemicals that keep drinking water flowing may also cause foulingJul 25, 2018 7:30 am1825 views Many city drinking water systems add softening agents to keep plumbing free of pipe-clogging mineral buildup. According to new research, these additives may amplify the risk of pathogen release into drinking water by weakening the grip that bacteria – like those responsible for Legionnaires’ disease – have on pipe interiors. Study explores risk factors linked to chikungunya and dengue outbreaksJul 24, 2018 8:15 am801 views In one of the largest studies of its kind, researchers analyzed chikungunya and dengue outbreak data from 76 countries over a period of 50 years, focusing on regions across the Indian Ocean that are hard hit by these and other mosquito-borne infectious diseases.In rats, perinatal exposure to phthalates impairs brain structure and functionJul 18, 2018 1:00 pm960 views Male and female rats exposed in the womb and during lactation to plasticizing chemicals known as phthalates had significantly fewer neurons and synapses than those that were not exposed, researchers report in a new study. The phthalate-exposed rats had reductions in the size of their medial prefrontal cortex, a brain region that regulates behavior, and showed deficits in cognitive flexibility. Using an electronic device counteracts benefits of taking a break in nature, researchers findJul 18, 2018 8:45 am1954 views Using a laptop negates the benefits that nature offers in recovering from mental fatigue, according to research from the University of Illinois.Study: Protein found to be key component in irregularly excited brain cellsJul 17, 2018 8:30 am706 views Researchers discovered that the tumor suppressor protein p53 is involved in the irregular brain cell activity seen in autism spectrum disorders and epilepsy.Products of omega-3 fatty acid metabolism may have anticancer effects, study showsJul 12, 2018 9:30 am2976 views A class of molecules formed when the body metabolizes omega-3 fatty acids could inhibit cancer’s growth and spread, University of Illinois researchers report in a new study in mice.First dogs in the Americas arrived from Siberia, disappeared after European contactJul 5, 2018 1:00 pm3300 views A study reported in the journal Science offers an enhanced view of the origins and ultimate fate of the first dogs in the Americas. The dogs were not domesticated North American wolves, as some have speculated, but likely followed their human counterparts over a land bridge that once connected North Asia and the Americas, the study found.Should we worry about ticks this summer?Jun 27, 2018 9:30 am1692 views Editor’s note: The number of tick-borne illnesses diagnosed annually in the United States doubled between 2004 and 2016, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Summer is prime tick season, and people spending time outdoors should be vigilant, says University of Illinois entomology professor Brian F. Allan. An expert in the spread of insect- and tick-borne diseases, Allan discussed ticks in Illinois, how to prevent bites and when to seek medical attention in an interview with News Bureau biomedical sciences editor Liz Ahlberg Touchstone.DNA enzyme shuffles cell membranes a thousand times faster than its natural counterpartJun 21, 2018 4:00 am1873 views A new synthetic enzyme, crafted from DNA rather than protein, flips lipid molecules within the cell membrane, triggering a signal pathway that could be harnessed to induce cell death in cancer cells. It is the first such synthetic enzyme to outperform its natural counterparts.New tissue-imaging technology could enable real-time diagnostics, map cancer progressionJun 20, 2018 8:00 am3396 views A new microscope system can image living tissue in real time and in molecular detail, without any chemicals or dyes, report researchers at the University of Illinois.Long-term estrogen therapy changes microbial activity in the gut, study findsJun 19, 2018 1:15 pm816 views Long-term therapy with estrogen and bazedoxifene changes the microbial composition and activity in the gut, affecting how estrogen is metabolized, University of Illinois researchers found in a new mouse study.When emotional memories intrude, focusing on context could help, study findsJun 14, 2018 12:15 pm1316 views When negative memories intrude, focusing on the contextual details of the incident rather than the emotional fallout could help minimize cognitive disruption and redirect the brain’s resources to the task at hand, suggests a new study by psychologists at the University of Illinois. “Everyone has encountered something distressing either in the recent past or the remote past. These memories can pop into our minds and distract from whatever we are doing,” said study leader Florin Dolcos, a professor of psychology at Illinois. “Instead of suppressing or stifling those emotional memories, we simply shift the focus and bring to life some other aspects of the same memory. That leads to a reduction in how much those memories interfere with whatever we’re doing.”Study: Larger sample sizes needed to increase reproducibility in neuroscience studiesJun 7, 2018 8:45 am885 views Small sample sizes in studies using functional MRI to investigate brain connectivity and function are common in neuroscience, despite years of warnings that such studies likely lack sufficient statistical power. A new analysis reveals that task-based fMRI experiments involving typical sample sizes of about 30 participants are only modestly replicable. This means that independent efforts to repeat the experiments are as likely to challenge as to confirm the original results.New algorithm fuses quality and quantity in satellite imageryJun 4, 2018 8:30 am2149 views Using a new algorithm, University of Illinois researchers may have found the solution to an age-old dilemma plaguing satellite imagery – whether to sacrifice high spatial resolution in the interest of generating images more frequently, or vice versa. The team’s new tool eliminates this trade-off by fusing high-resolution and high-frequency satellite data into one integrated product, and can generate 30-meter daily continuous images going back to the year 2000. Study links neighborhood factors, breast cancer rates in African-American womenJun 1, 2018 10:15 am1376 views Neighborhood characteristics are associated with late-stage diagnoses and higher mortality rates among urban African-American women, a new study shows.Study: Two ancient populations that diverged in the Americas later ‘reconverged’May 31, 2018 1:00 pm1028 views A new genetic study of ancient individuals in the Americas and their contemporary descendants finds that two populations that diverged from one another 18,000 to 15,000 years ago remained apart for millennia before mixing again. This historic “reconvergence” occurred before or during their expansion to the southern continent.Study: Disease-causing stomach bug attacks energy generation in host cellsMay 30, 2018 11:45 am677 views Researchers report in a new study that the bacterium Helicobacter pylori – a major contributor to gastritis, ulcers and stomach cancer – resists the body’s immune defenses by shutting down energy production within the cells of the stomach lining that serve as a barrier to infection.3-D printed sugar scaffolds offer sweet solution for tissue engineering, device manufacturingMay 23, 2018 2:00 pm4204 views University of Illinois engineers built a 3-D printer that offers a sweet solution to making detailed structures that commercial 3-D printers can’t: Rather than a layer-upon-layer solid shell, it produces a delicate network of thin ribbons of hardened isomalt, the type of sugar alcohol used to make throat lozenges. The water-soluble, biodegradable glassy sugar structures have multiple applications in biomedical engineering, cancer research and device manufacturing.Study: Ancient mound builders carefully timed their occupation of coastal Louisiana siteMay 22, 2018 9:45 am2228 views A study of ancient mound builders who lived hundreds of years ago on the Mississippi River Delta near present-day New Orleans offers new insights into how Native peoples selected the landforms that supported their villages and earthen mounds – and why these sites were later abandoned.New technique can track drug and gene delivery to cellsMay 21, 2018 8:00 am1155 views University of Illinois researchers say they now know how to track and map drug and gene delivery vehicles to evaluate which are most effective at infiltrating cells and getting to their targets, insight that could guide development of new pharmaceutical agents. The researchers described their tracking system and their findings on the most effective delivery vehicles in the journal Nature Communications.