blog posts Corn genetic heritage the strongest driver of chemical defenses against munching bugs May 3, 2022 10:30 am664 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 am384 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 am832 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 pm749 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 am1224 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 am1040 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 am1031 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 pm1513 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 am1673 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 am1622 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 pm2136 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 am1587 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 pm930 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 am481 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 am741 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 am561 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 pm759 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 am916 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 pm2834 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 pm573 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 am1289 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 am2919 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 pm2903 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 am8566 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 am3156 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 am967 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 am867 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 am885 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 am895 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. Water disinfection byproduct disrupts reproductive hormones, damages pituitary in female mice Nov 24, 2021 8:00 am697 views A byproduct formed during water disinfection disrupts hormones in the brain that regulate the female reproductive cycle in mice and also damages cells in the pituitary gland, a new study from University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers found. The new study’s findings of the chemical’s effects on reproductive regulation in the brain complement previous work that found that it also disrupts function in and causes damage to ovary cells, indicating the chemical could impact the entire reproductive system. The researchers hope that the continued study of these effects can help establish a safe level of exposure to guide future regulations. Fraternizing vampire bats share 'social microbiomes' Nov 16, 2021 8:00 am489 views An unusual study of vampire bats reveals that their gut microbiomes become more similar the more often they engage in social behaviors with one another. Six Illinois scientists rank among world's most influential Nov 16, 2021 7:45 am15255 views Six faculty members at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have been named to the 2021 Clarivate Analytics Highly Cited Researchers list. PFAS exposure, high-fat diet drive prostate cells’ metabolism into pro-cancer state Nov 11, 2021 10:00 am1245 views Consuming a high-fat diet along with exposure to PFAS changes benign and malignant prostate cells, promoting rapid tumor growth, scientists at the University of Illinois found in mouse study. Scientists discover how antibiotics penetrate Gram-negative bacterial cell walls Nov 8, 2021 8:00 am1747 views Scientists have labored for decades to find antibiotics that work against Gram-negative bacteria, which cause some of the deadliest infections in hospital settings and are most likely to be resistant to treatment with existing antibiotics. In a study reported in the journal Chemical Science, researchers developed a new method to determine how antibiotics with specific chemical properties thread their way through tiny pores in the otherwise impenetrable cell envelopes of Gram-negative bacteria. New molecule targets, images and treats lung cancer tumors in mice Oct 25, 2021 10:00 am1111 views Lung cancer can be elusive to spot and difficult to treat, but University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign researchers have developed a finely tuned molecular agent that can precisely target lung and other cancer cells for imaging and treatment. Scientists look beyond the individual brain to study the collective mind Oct 21, 2021 11:30 am1356 views In a new paper, scientists suggest that efforts to understand human cognition should expand beyond the study of individual brains. They call on neuroscientists to incorporate evidence from social science disciplines to better understand how people think. Study reconstructs 232-year history of prairie fire in Midwestern US Oct 19, 2021 10:30 am3624 views Researchers combed through thousands of historical documents for first-person accounts of fires occurring between 1673 and 1905 in the Midwestern tallgrass prairie. Their study is the first systematic analysis of the timing, causes and consequences of prairie fires in this part of the world. Team discovers invasive-native crayfish hybrids in Missouri Oct 8, 2021 1:00 am1732 views In a study of crayfish in the Current River in southeastern Missouri, researchers discovered – almost by chance – that the virile crayfish, Faxonius virilis, was interbreeding with a native crayfish, potentially altering the native’s genetics, life history and ecology. Reported in the journal Aquatic Invasions, the study highlights the difficulty of detecting some of the consequences of biological invasions, the researchers say. New analytical technique helps researchers spot subtle differences in subcellular chemistry Sep 30, 2021 11:15 am2759 views Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign can now rapidly isolate and chemically characterize individual organelles within cells. The new technique tests the limits of analytical chemistry and rapidly reveals the chemical composition of organelles that control biological growth, development and disease. Birds' eye size offers clues to coevolutionary arms race between brood parasites, hosts Sep 28, 2021 6:00 pm335 views Eye size likely plays a role in the contest between avian brood parasites – birds that lay their eggs in the nests of other species – and their hosts, who sometimes detect the foreign eggs and eject or abandon them, scientists report. DNA sensor quickly determines whether viruses are infectious Sep 22, 2021 1:00 pm2699 views A new sensor can detect not only whether a virus is present, but whether it’s infectious – an important distinction for containing viral spread. Researchers demonstrated the sensor, which integrates specially designed DNA fragments and nanopore sensing, with two key viruses that cause infections worldwide: the human adenovirus and the virus that causes COVID-19. Antibodies from original strain COVID-19 infection don't bind to variants, study finds Sep 17, 2021 8:30 am5754 views 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. Is the future of agriculture digital? Sep 10, 2021 8:00 am1112 views 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 Sep 3, 2021 9:00 am39809 views 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. Paper: Use patent law to curb unethical human-genome editing Aug 30, 2021 10:30 am712 views 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. New imaging, machine-learning methods speed effort to reduce crops' need for water Aug 24, 2021 8:00 am1431 views 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. Light can trigger key signaling pathway for embryonic development, cancer Aug 17, 2021 12:45 pm3825 views 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. Team develops bioprocess for converting plant materials into valuable chemicals Aug 17, 2021 9:00 am1345 views 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. Study: Domestic control of COVID-19 takes priority over international travel bans Aug 11, 2021 8:00 am840 views 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. Study identifies molecule that stimulates muscle-building Aug 9, 2021 8:00 am3104 views 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.