blog navigation

Life Sciences

blog posts

  • Illinois sportfish recovery a result of 1972 Clean Water Act, scientists report

    Populations of largemouth bass, bluegill, catfish and other sportfish are at the highest levels recorded in more than a century in the Illinois River, according to a new report. Their dramatic recovery, from populations close to zero near Chicago throughout much of the 20th century, began just after implementation of the Clean Water Act, the researchers say.

  • Report identifies factors associated with harassment, abuse in academic fieldwork

    College students considering careers in fields like archaeology or geology that require extensive work at remote field sites might want to find out how potential supervisors and advisers conduct themselves in the field. Do they establish clear ground rules for the behavior of everyone on the team? Are the rules consistently enforced? According to a new report, such factors likely influence whether students will witness or experience harassment while working far from home.

  • Mantis shrimp-inspired camera enables glimpse into hidden world

    By mimicking the eye of the mantis shrimp, Illinois researchers have developed an ultra-sensitive camera capable of sensing both color and polarization. The bioinspired imager can potentially improve early cancer detection and help provide a new understanding of underwater phenomena, the researchers said.

  • Cholesterol byproduct hijacks immune cells, lets breast cancer spread

    A cholesterol byproduct facilitates breast cancer’s spread by hijacking immune cells, a new University of Illinois study found.

  • Some plants grow bigger – and meaner – when clipped, study finds

    Some plants behave like the mythical monster Hydra: Cut off their heads and they grow back, bigger and better than before. A new study finds that these “overcompensators,” as they are called, also augment their defensive chemistry – think plant venom – when they are clipped.

  • No ‘narcissism epidemic’ among college students, study finds

    Today’s college students are slightly less narcissistic than their counterparts were in the 1990s, researchers report in a new study – not significantly more, as some have proposed. The study, reported in the journal Psychological Science, analyzed data from 1,166 students at the University of California, Berkeley in the 1990s, and from tens of thousands of students at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of California, Davis in the 2000s and 2010s. All of the students completed the Narcissism Personal Inventory, the oldest and most widely used measure of narcissism.

  • Antibiotic-resistant infections in pets: What now?

    Rates of antibiotic-resistant infections in companion animals are rising at an alarming rate. An Illinois veterinarian discusses what can be done about it.

  • Large, crystalline lipid scaffolds bring new possibilities to protein, drug research

    Proteins and drugs are often attached to lipids to promote crystallization or ensure delivery to targeted tissues within the body, but only the smallest proteins and molecules fit within these fat structures. A new study reveals a lipid structure that can support much larger proteins and molecules than before, potentially increasing the variety of drugs that can be attached to these fat molecules.

  • Paper: Don’t rely on mixed messages to change health behaviors

    Self-improvement messages to lose weight, quit smoking or eat more fruits and vegetables can fall on deaf ears if the intervention message is mixed, says new research from U. of I. psychology professor Dolores Albarracin.

  • Click beetles inspire design of self-righting robots

    Robots perform many tasks that humans can’t or don’t want to perform, getting around on intricately designed wheels and limbs. If they tip over, however, they are rendered almost useless. A team of University of Illinois mechanical engineers and entomologists are looking to click beetles, who can right themselves without the use of their legs, to solve this robotics challenge.

  • Study: Biomarkers as predictive of sepsis as lengthy patient monitoring

    One measurement of key biomarkers in blood that characterize sepsis can give physicians as much information as hours of monitoring symptoms, a new study found.

  • Nutrition has benefits for brain network organization, new research finds

    A new study found that monounsaturated fatty acids are linked to general intelligence and the organization of the brain’s attention network.

  • Scientists discover spring-loaded mechanism in unusual species of trap-jaw ant

    Research reveals how a group of trap-jaw ants can snap their jaws shut at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour – just fast enough to capture their elusive prey.

  • Ringing in ears keeps brain more at attention, less at rest, study finds

    Tinnitus, a chronic ringing or buzzing in the ears, has eluded medical treatment and scientific understanding. A new study by University of Illinois researchers found that chronic tinnitus is associated with changes in certain networks in the brain, and furthermore, those changes cause the brain to stay more at attention and less at rest.

  • Study links fish stress hormones to whether they take the bait

    Take a fish out of water and its stress hormones will go up. Adrenaline and noradrenaline, the “fight or flight” hormones, peak first, followed more gradually by cortisol. A new study finds that largemouth bass whose cortisol levels rise most after a brief bout of stress are inherently harder to catch by angling.

  • Paper: Clinical signs best predictors of mortality in critically ill calves

    Clinical signs may be better predictors of mortality in neonatal calves with diarrhea than blood pH levels and other laboratory findings, suggests a new study co-written by University of Illinois researcher Peter D. Constable.

  • Slowing dangerous bacteria may be more effective than killing them, researchers report

    A new study suggests it may be possible to slow dangerous infections by manipulating the messages microbes send to one another, allowing the body to defeat an infection without causing the bacteria to develop resistance to the treatment.

  • Increased risk of suicide, mental health conditions linked to sexual assault victimization

    An analysis of nearly 200 independent studies involving more than 230,000 adult participants finds that having been sexually assaulted is associated with significantly increased risk of anxiety, depression, suicidality, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, obsessive-compulsive disorder and bipolar disorder.

  • New microscope technique reveals internal structure of live embryos

    University of Illinois researchers have developed a way to produce 3-D images of live embryos in cattle that could help determine embryo viability before in vitro fertilization in humans.

  • Lizard blizzard survivors tell story of natural selection

    An unusually cold winter in the U.S. in 2014 took a toll on the green anole lizard, a tree-dwelling creature common to the southeastern United States. A new study offers a rare view of natural selection in this species, showing how the lizard survivors at the southernmost part of their range in Texas came to be more like their cold-adapted counterparts further north.

  • Cicada wings may inspire new surface technologies

    Researchers are looking to insects – specifically cicadas – for insight into the design of artificial surfaces with de-icing, self-cleaning and anti-fogging abilities. 

  • Study finds parallels between unresponsive honey bees, autism in humans

    Honey bees that consistently fail to respond to obvious social cues share something fundamental with autistic humans, researchers report in a new study. Genes most closely associated with autism spectrum disorders in humans are regulated differently in unresponsive honey bees than in their more responsive nest mates, the study found.

  • Cognitive cross-training enhances learning, study finds

    Just as athletes cross-train to improve physical skills, those wanting to enhance cognitive skills can benefit from multiple ways of exercising the brain, according to a comprehensive new study from University of Illinois researchers.

  • Physical activity could combat fatigue, cognitive decline in cancer survivors

    A new study indicates that cancer patients and survivors have a ready weapon against fatigue and “chemo brain”: a brisk walk.

  • Lutein may counter cognitive aging, study finds

    Spinach and kale are favorites of those looking to stay physically fit, but they also could keep consumers cognitively fit, according to a new study from University of Illinois researchers.

  • Massive simulation shows HIV capsid interacting with its environment

    It took two years on a supercomputer to simulate 1.2 microseconds in the life of the HIV capsid, a protein cage that shuttles the HIV virus to the nucleus of a human cell. The 64-million-atom simulation offers new insights into how the virus senses its environment and completes its infective cycle.

  • Study: Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation via cannabinoids

    Chemical compounds called cannabinoids are found in marijuana and also are produced naturally in the body from omega-3 fatty acids. A well-known cannabinoid in marijuana, THC, is responsible for some of its euphoric effects, but it also has anti-inflammatory benefits. A new study in animal tissue reveals the cascade of chemical reactions that convert omega-3 fatty acids into cannabinoids that have anti-inflammatory benefits – but without the psychotropic high. 

  • Brief interactions spur lasting waves of gene activity in the brain

    A five-minute encounter with an outsider spurs a cascade of changes in gene activity in the brain that can last for hours, researchers report in a study of stickleback fish.

  • Survey reveals widespread bias in astronomy and planetary science

    In an online survey about their workplace experiences, 88 percent of academics, students, postdoctoral researchers and administrators in astronomy and planetary science reported hearing, experiencing or witnessing negative language or harassment relating to race, gender or other physical characteristics at work within the last five years. Of the 423 respondents, 39 percent reported having been verbally harassed and 9 percent said they had suffered physical harassment at work.

  • Study: Handshaking viewed more positively by Westerners than by East Asians

    Westerners view handshaking more positively than do East Asians, researchers report in a new study. Western men also rate handshakes initiated by men and women differently, the study found. 

  • University of Illinois hosting inaugural human-animal studies institute

    The University of Illinois is hosting a Human-Animal Studies Summer Institute -- the first of its kind in the emerging interdisciplinary field.

  • Quick test finds signs of sepsis in a single drop of blood

    A new portable device can quickly find markers of deadly, unpredictable sepsis infection from a single drop of blood.

  • Study identifies key player in heart enlargement

    The heart is a dynamic muscle that grows and shrinks in response to stressors such as exercise and disease. The secret to its malleability lies in individual cells, which get bigger or smaller depending on the heart’s needs. A new study of mouse hearts reveals a previously unknown mechanism by which heart cells control their size by ramping up or stopping the production of a key factor called PABPC1. The findings, reported in the journal eLife, could assist in the development of therapeutics that promote healthy heart growth and prevent disease.

  • Studies link nutrient, academic achievement in pre-adolescent children

    Researchers can look into your eyes to determine whether you’re getting your lutein, a pigment found in green leafy vegetables that is known to accumulate in the brain. Two new studies find that children with higher lutein levels in the eye tend to do better than others on tests of cognition and academic achievement, even after accounting for other factors known to influence academic performance such as IQ, gender, body composition and physical fitness.

  • Corn better used as food than biofuel, study finds

    Corn is grown not only for food, it is also an important renewable energy source. Renewable biofuels can come with hidden economic and environmental issues, and the question of whether corn is better utilized as food or as a biofuel has persisted since ethanol came into use. For the first time, researchers at the University of Illinois have quantified and compared these issues in terms of economics of the entire production system to determine if the benefits of biofuel corn outweigh the costs.

  • Researchers sample a DC swamp to study a spineless creature

    CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Its name is Stygobromus hayi, the Hay’s Spring amphipod. It is spineless. It lacks vision. It is an opportunistic feeder, consuming whatever resources are available – perhaps including the remains of its own kind. Now researchers report on a way to survey this aquatic, subterranean creature without threatening its existence, as other studies had done.  

  • Scientists find world’s oldest fossil mushroom

    Roughly 115 million years ago, when the ancient supercontinent Gondwana was breaking apart, a mushroom fell into a river and began an improbable journey. Its ultimate fate as a mineralized fossil preserved in limestone in northeast Brazil makes it a scientific wonder, scientists report in the journal PLOS ONE.

  • Genetic study shakes up the elephant family tree

    New research reveals that a species of giant elephant that lived 1.5 million to 100,000 years ago – ranging across Eurasia before it went extinct – is more closely related to today’s African forest elephant than the forest elephant is to its nearest living relative, the African savanna elephant.

  • Fred A. Kummerow, successful crusader against trans fats, dies at 102

    Fred A. Kummerow, a pioneer in the study of dietary contributors to heart disease who led a decades-long crusade to remove trans fats from the food supply, died Wednesday, May 31, at his home in Urbana, Illinois. He was 102.

  • Chemical array draws out malignant cells to guide individualized cancer treatment

    Melanoma is a particularly difficult cancer to treat once it has metastasized, spreading throughout the body. University of Illinois researchers are using chemistry to find the deadly, elusive malignant cells within a melanoma tumor that hold the potential to spread.

  • Cowbird moms choosy when selecting foster parents for their young

    Despite their reputation as uncaring, absentee moms, cowbird mothers are capable of making sophisticated choices among potential nests in order to give their offspring a better chance of thriving, a new study shows.

  • Sensors detect disease markers in breath

    A small, thin square of an organic plastic that can detect disease markers in breath or toxins in a building’s air could soon be the basis of portable, disposable sensor devices. By riddling the thin plastic films with pores, University of Illinois researchers made the devices sensitive enough to detect at levels that are far too low to smell, yet are important to human health.

  • Studies link healthy brain aging to omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the blood

    Two new studies link patterns of polyunsaturated fatty acids in the blood to the integrity of brain structures and cognitive abilities that are known to decline early in aging.

  • ‘Molecular prosthetics’ can replace missing proteins to treat disease

    Researchers have demonstrated that a small molecule can transport iron in human cells and live animals when proteins that normally do the same job are missing, a condition that often causes severe anemia in patients. Such “molecular prosthetics” might treat a host of incurable diseases caused by protein deficiencies, such as anemias, cystic fibrosis or certain types of heart disease.

  • Antibiotic breakthrough: Team discovers how to overcome gram-negative bacterial defenses

    Scientists report that they now know how to build a molecular Trojan horse that can penetrate gram-negative bacteria, solving a problem that for decades has stalled the development of effective new antibiotics against these increasingly drug-resistant microbes. The findings appear in the journal Nature.

  • Anemonefish dads further fathering research

    Like the dad in “Finding Nemo,” anemonefish fathers will do almost anything to support their offspring. Their parenting instincts are so strong that if you give a bachelor anemonefish a scoop of anemonefish eggs from an unrelated nest, he will care for them – constantly nipping at them to remove debris and fanning them with oxygen-rich waters – as if they were his own. (Any other fish would eat them, researchers say.)

  • Report: Even in death, indigenous border crossers marginalized

    Of the hundreds of people who die trying to cross into the U.S. from Mexico each year, those with indigenous backgrounds are less likely to be identified than those with more European ancestry, a new analysis reveals.

  • Study offers new insight into powerful inflammatory regulator

    A new study in mice reveals how a protein called Brd4 boosts the inflammatory response – for better and for worse, depending on the ailment. The study is the first to show that this protein, while problematic in some circumstances, also can protect the body from infection.

  • Team discovers a new invasive clam in the U.S.

    A new invasive clam has made its official debut in North America.

  • Brain tissue structure could explain link between fitness and memory

    Studies have suggested a link between fitness and memory, but researchers have struggled to find the mechanism that links them. A new study by University of Illinois researchers found that the key may lie in the microstructure of the hippocampus, a region in the middle of the brain involved in memory processes.