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The Lead

New drug stalls estrogen receptor-positive cancer cells, shrinks tumors

March 31, 2015 7:43 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

An experimental drug rapidly shrinks most tumors in a mouse model of human breast cancer, researchers report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. When mice were treated with the experimental drug, BHPI, the tumors immediately stopped growing and began shrinking rapidly.

Report: Photosynthesis hack needed to feed world by 2050

March 30, 2015 8:03 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Using high-performance computing and genetic engineering to boost the photosynthetic efficiency...

Nano piano’s lullaby could mean storage breakthrough

March 16, 2015 10:52 am | by William Bowman, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

Researchers from the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have demonstrated the first-ever...

Molecule-making machine simplifies complex chemistry

March 13, 2015 8:05 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

A new molecule-making machine could do for chemistry what 3-D printing did for engineering: Make...

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Squeezing out new science from materials interfaces

March 6, 2015 1:02 pm | by Rick Kubetz, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

With more than five times the thermal conductivity of copper, diamond is the ultimate heat spreader. But the slow rate of heat flow into diamond from other materials limits its use in practice. In particular, the physical process controlling heat flow between metals and diamond has remained a mystery to scientists for many years.

Cancer drug first tested in dogs begins human trials

February 27, 2015 8:03 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

A new drug that prompts cancer cells to self-destruct while sparing healthy cells is now entering phase I clinical trials in humans. The drug, called PAC-1, first showed promise in the treatment of pet dogs with spontaneously occurring cancers, and is still in clinical trials in dogs with osteosarcoma.

Long-term nitrogen fertilizer use disrupts plant-microbe mutualisms

February 24, 2015 7:56 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

When exposed to nitrogen fertilizer over a period of years, nitrogen-fixing bacteria called rhizobia evolve to become less beneficial to legumes, researchers report in a new study. These findings, reported in Evolution, may be of little interest to farmers, who generally grow only one type of plant and can always add more fertilizer to boost plant growth.

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Novel crumpling method takes flat graphene from 2-D to 3-D

February 18, 2015 7:54 am | by Rick Kubetz, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have developed a unique single-step process to achieve 3-D texturing of graphene and graphite. Using a commercially available thermally activated shape-memory polymer substrate, this 3-D texturing, or "crumpling," allows for increased surface area and opens the doors to expanded capabilities for electronics and biomaterials.

Nanotubes self-organize and wiggle

February 10, 2015 1:41 pm | by Siv Schwink, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

The second law of thermodynamics tells us that all systems evolve toward a state of maximum entropy, wherein all energy is dissipated as heat, and no available energy remains to do work. Since the mid-20th century, research has pointed to an extension of the second law for nonequilibrium systems.

Earth’s surprise inside

February 10, 2015 9:39 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Seismic waves are helping scientists to plumb the world’s deepest mystery: the planet’s inner core. Thanks to a novel application of earthquake-reading technology, a research team at the Univ. of Illinois and colleagues at Nanjing Univ. in China have found that the Earth’s inner core has an inner core of its own, which has surprising properties that could reveal information about our planet.

Drug compounds show promise against endometriosis

January 22, 2015 8:15 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Two new drug compounds appear to be effective in treating endometriosis, a disorder that, like MS, is driven by estrogen and inflammation, scientists report in Science Translational Medicine. The researchers hope to eventually use the new compounds and others like them to treat a variety of disorders linked to estrogen signaling and inflammation.

Optimistic people have healthier hearts

January 9, 2015 8:46 am | by Sharita Forrest, Social Work Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

People who have upbeat outlooks on life have significantly better cardiovascular health, suggests a new study that examined associations between optimism and heart health in more than 5,100 adults. Participants’ cardiovascular health was assessed using seven metrics: blood pressure, body mass index, fasting plasma glucose and serum cholesterol levels, dietary intake, physical activity and tobacco use.

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Gelatin nanoparticles could deliver drugs to the brain

January 2, 2015 8:12 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Stroke victims could have more time to seek treatment that could reduce harmful effects on the brain, thanks to tiny blobs of gelatin that could deliver the medication to the brain noninvasively. Univ. of Illinois researchers found that gelatin nanoparticles could be laced with medications for delivery to the brain, and that they could extend the treatment window for when a drug could be effective.

New method helps map species’ genetic heritage

December 15, 2014 8:20 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Where did the songbird get its song? What branch of the bird family tree is closer to the flamingo: the heron or the sparrow? These questions seem simple, but are actually difficult for geneticists to answer. A new, sophisticated statistical technique developed by researchers can help researchers construct more accurate species trees detailing the lineage of genes and the relationships between species.

Molecules for the masses

December 10, 2014 2:28 pm | by Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois | Videos | Comments

Scientists have created an app that brings molecules to life in a handheld device. Through the app, people can use up to eleven fingers to examine in great detail more than 350 molecules.                  

Researchers develop inexpensive hydrolysable polymer

December 2, 2014 4:50 pm | by Rick Kubetz, Engineering Communications Office | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have figured out how to reverse the characteristics of a key bonding material—polyurea—providing an inexpensive alternative for a broad number of applications, such as drug delivery, tissue engineering and packaging.

Different species share a “genetic toolkit” for behavioral traits

December 2, 2014 8:44 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

The house mouse, stickleback fish and honey bee appear to have little in common, but at the genetic level these creatures respond in strikingly similar ways to danger, researchers report. When any of these animals confronts an intruder, the researchers found, many of the same genes and brain gene networks gear up or down in response.

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Model evaluates where bioenergy crops grow best

November 24, 2014 7:59 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Farmers interested in bioenergy crops now have a resource to help them determine which kind of bioenergy crop would grow best in their regions and what kind of harvest to expect. Researchers at the Univ. of Illinois have published a study identifying yield zones for three major bioenergy crops.

Some plants regenerate by duplicating their DNA

November 12, 2014 10:29 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

When munched by grazing animals (or mauled by scientists in the laboratory), some herbaceous plants overcompensate, producing more plant matter and becoming more fertile than they otherwise would. Scientists say they now know how these plants accomplish this feat of regeneration. They report their findings in Molecular Ecology.

Microtubes create cozy space for neurons to grow

November 11, 2014 2:25 pm | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | Videos | Comments

Tiny, thin microtubes could provide a scaffold for neuron cultures to grow so that researchers can study neural networks, their growth and repair, yielding insights into treatment for degenerative neurological conditions or restoring nerve connections after injury. Researchers created the microtube platform to study neuron growth.

Teaching and research, a potent educational mix

November 4, 2014 8:20 am | by Craig Chamberlain, Social Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

A common perception, especially outside the university classroom, is that teaching and research are two separate domains, with little overlap. That’s not the reality, however, for many Univ. of Illinois faculty. For these faculty members, “there is an active and dynamic link” between the two.

Climate change beliefs more influenced by long-term temperature fluctuations

October 31, 2014 8:14 am | by Phil Ciciora, Business & Law Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

In spite of the broad scientific consensus about its existence, global warming remains a contentious public policy issue. Yet it’s also an issue that requires a public consensus to support policies that might curb or counteract it. According to research, the task of educating the public about climate change might be made easier or more difficult depending on their perception of short-term versus long-term temperature changes.

Sculpting solar systems: Magnetic fields seen for first time

October 30, 2014 7:50 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Astronomers have caught their first glimpse of the invisible magnetic fields that sculpt solar systems. Looking at a bright, nearby baby star and the dust swirling in its cradle, astronomers from the Univ. of Illinois and six collaborating institutions were able to make out the shape of the magnetic field surrounding the star.

How microbes build a powerful antibiotic

October 27, 2014 10:32 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Researchers report in Nature that they have made a breakthrough in understanding how a powerful antibiotic agent is made in nature. Their discovery solves a decades-old mystery, and opens up new avenues of research into thousands of similar molecules, many of which are likely to be medically useful. 

Rivers flow differently over gravel beds, study finds

October 16, 2014 11:00 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Univ. of Illinois | News | Comments

River beds, where flowing water meets silt, sand and gravel, are critical ecological zones. Yet how water flows in a river with a gravel bed is very different from the traditional model of a sandy river bed, according to a new study that compares their fluid dynamics. The findings establish new parameters for river modeling that better represent reality, with implications for field researchers and water resource managers.

Study reveals optimal particle size for anticancer nanomedicines

October 16, 2014 8:10 am | News | Comments

Nanomedicines consisting of nanoparticles for targeted drug delivery to specific tissues and cells offer new solutions for cancer diagnosis and therapy. Understanding the interdependency of physiochemical properties of nanomedicines, in correlation to their biological responses and functions, is crucial for their further development of as cancer-fighters.

Charged graphene gives DNA a stage to perform molecular gymnastics

October 10, 2014 8:12 am | by Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor, Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

When Illinois researchers set out to investigate a method to control how DNA moves through a tiny sequencing device, they didn’t know they were about to witness a display of molecular gymnastics. Fast, accurate and affordable DNA sequencing is the first step toward personalized medicine.

All directions are not created equal for nanoscale heat sources

October 1, 2014 10:11 am | News | Comments

Thermal considerations are rapidly becoming one of the most serious design constraints in microelectronics, especially on submicron scale lengths. A study by researchers from the Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has shown that standard thermal models will lead to the wrong answer in a 3-D heat-transfer problem if the dimensions of the heating element are on the order of one micron or smaller.

Search for better biofuels microbes leads to the human gut

September 25, 2014 8:14 am | by Diana Yates, Life Sciences Editor Univ. of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign | News | Comments

Scientists have scoured cow rumens and termite guts for microbes that can efficiently break down plant cell walls for the production of next-generation biofuels, but some of the best microbial candidates actually may reside in the human lower intestine, researchers report. Their studyis the first to use biochemical approaches to confirm the hypothesis that microbes in the human gut can digest fiber.

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