News Archive – 2020
What is the new variant of coronavirus in the UK?
New mutations to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 are emerging, including one in the United Kingdom with higher infection rates that has sparked new travel bans. Erik Procko, a professor of biochemistry at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, has been studying mutations in the spike protein, the part of the...
December 23, 2020
Microbial Systems Initiative positions Illinois as center for cutting-edge, collaborative research
With support and leadership from the School of Molecular & Cellular Biology, the Microbial Systems Initiative (MSI) aims to harness the existing and emerging strengths of the microbial sciences community and establish the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign as a leading center that will continue to attract and nurture a diverse,...
December 21, 2020
Stadtmueller Lab determines the structure of our predominant mucosal antibody
It has been over 60 years since scientists first identified the molecule that we know today as immunoglobulin (Ig) A. IgA is the predominant class of antibody found in human mucus where it is known as secretory (S) IgA. SIgA functions to bind microbes in extracellular regions such as the gut...
December 17, 2020
Following Drg: Curiosity Drives Scientist’s Protein Synthesis Research
Current cancer treatments include drugs that target standard protein synthesis in cells, which can kill cancer cells, but also targets healthy cells. To address this issue, associate professor of biochemistry and Cancer Center at Illinois (CCIL) member, Hong Jin, is focusing on a non-canonical protein translation pathway, which will allow researchers...
December 14, 2020
Microbiology professor Rachel Whitaker named a University Scholar
Congratulations to Rachel Whitaker for being chosen as a University Scholar. Whitaker, a professor of microbiology, conducts groundbreaking research on the dynamics of microbes and their viruses and how they evolve in clinical and natural environments.
December 11, 2020
Mouse model of epilepsy may yield insights into relationship between seizures and reproductive cycle in women
One of the first steps in creating treatments for a medical condition is to make an accurate model of it, in which to identify targets for investigation and test potential therapeutic candidates. Without such a model, a condition can be very difficult to study, let...
December 10, 2020
Researchers uncover the role of a noncoding RNA in cell proliferation
Kannanganattu V. Prasanth, professor of cell and developmental biology, and members of his lab investigate the regulation of gene expression and RNA biology with a focus on cancer. In a new article published in eLife, “The S-phase-induced lncRNA SUNO1 promotes cell proliferation by controlling YAP1/Hippo signaling pathway,” Prasanth...
December 08, 2020
School of MCB hosts second annual undergraduate research symposium
During the first week of November 2020, the School of MCB hosted its second annual Undergraduate Research Symposium. Given that the event could not be safely held in person, the symposium was reorganized to be conducted virtually.
December 02, 2020
Researchers study how biotin affects mycobacteria growth
Alumni Professor of Microbiology John E. Cronan at the University of Illinois recently published work on the biotin synthesis pathway and its role in mycobacterium and tuberculosis. Cronan’s lab primarily works on lipid metabolism and fatty acid synthesis. In his recent publication, Cronan takes a deeper dive into the role of biotin...
December 02, 2020
Microbiology grad leverages her Illinois research training into career at Abbott
On January 9, 2020, the World Health Organization announced the discovery of a mysterious string of pneumonia-like cases in Wuhan, China, which they believed could be caused by a novel coronavirus. At the same time in Illinois, executives at the medical device and healthcare company Abbott Laboratories were activating their...
November 30, 2020
Study: Gut hormones' regulation of fat production abnormal in obesity, fatty liver disease
Gut hormones play an important role in regulating fat production in the body. One key hormone, released a few hours after eating, turns off fat production by regulating gene expression in the liver, but this regulation is abnormal in obesity, researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign found...
November 24, 2020
In Memoriam: Physiology Professor Dennis Buetow, 1932-2020
Professor Emeritus Dennis E. Buetow, a respected physiology researcher and educator, passed away on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, at home in Champaign with family.
November 23, 2020
The lessons of a Nobel Laureate
Phillip Sharp recalls a key moment on campus as he renews support for the U of I
November 23, 2020
New optogenetics study shows promising results for neuronal regeneration
Although researchers have been able to achieve many advances in regenerative medicine, repairing damage in the nervous system of the human body has stubbornly eluded scientists and doctors. The nervous system and the brain present many obstacles that, until recently, have had few effective solutions. Neuronal cells are notoriously slow to multiply...
November 20, 2020
UIUC biology alumna appointed to Biden's COVID-19 advisory panel
Congratulations to University of Illinois biology alumna Dr. Julie Morita, who was recently named to President-elect Joe Biden’s COVID-19 advisory panel.
November 11, 2020
Tyramide signal amplification mass spectrometry (TSA-MS) ratio identifies nuclear speckle proteins
Proximity labeling of cell structures followed by mass spectrometry has become an increasingly popular proteomics approach to identify what proteins localize to different cell structures. In practice, however, results are typically confusing, with long lists of hundreds of proteins identified, among which only a small fraction are bona fide components...
November 10, 2020
Erik Nelson receives $4.5M grant to study prevention and treatment of metastatic breast cancer
Erik Nelson, professor of molecular and integrative physiology, has won a $4.5 million Era of Hope Scholar Award from the United States Department of Defense Breast Cancer Research Program.This prestigious award supports individuals early in their careers who have demonstrated significant potential to effect meaningful...
November 04, 2020
Four MCB alumni honored with 2020 LAS alumni awards
The winners are being honored during LAS Impact 2020, a weeklong celebration of the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences starting on Oct. 26.
October 26, 2020
Microbiology alumni collaborate on COVID-19 wastewater tests
Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic, University of Illinois alumnus David Townsend (BS ’88, microbiology) and members of his team at IDEXX Laboratories have developed a test to monitor the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in wastewater that rapidly detects the virus’ genetic material.
October 23, 2020
Brian Freeman named a fellow of Cell Stress Society International
October 23, 2020
Christopher Brooke named Man of the Year by Central Illinois Business Magazine
This announcement was made as part of The News-Gazette’s 13th annual Forty Under 40 Awards. Professor Brooke is an assistant professor of microbiology and is an affiliate of the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology.
October 20, 2020
New study explores complex phage-host interactions in human gut
Danielle Campbell, a microbiology PhD graduate of the Whitaker Lab, recently studied the interaction of the active prophage, Bacteroides phage BV01, in its tractable host strain, B. vulgatus ATCC 8482. Bacteroides, known to degrade complex carbohydrates and interact with host immune cells, are one of the most common bacterial types...
October 20, 2020
New work provides broader understanding of how bacteria obtain essential nutrients in soil and during infection
In a recently published study from the University of Illinois, researchers have identified a new class of bacterial importers in over 250 species.
October 19, 2020
New NIH grants will fund research on cell nuclei structure and dynamics
URBANA—University of Illinois professor Andrew Belmont has received two new grants from the National Institutes of Health that will advance his work in understanding nuclear structure and dynamics and gene expression.
October 15, 2020
A major catastrophe for actin: University of Illinois researchers uncover new insights on actin disassembly
New research from University of Illinois professor William Brieher has uncovered new insights on actin disassembly.
October 07, 2020
Cancer compound originating from U of I scientists leads to major licensing deal
University of Illinois researchers are leading the science behind a new global licensing agreement between the pharmaceutics company Bayer AG and the cancer drug development company Systems Oncology for a new breast cancer drug called ERSO.
September 30, 2020
Cholesterol metabolite causes immune system to attack T cells instead of breast cancer, study finds
In breast cancer tumors, a molecule produced when the body breaks down cholesterol hijacks the myeloid immune cells that normally arm T cells to fight cancer, a new study in mice found. Instead, the hijacked myeloid cells disarm the T cells and even tell them to...
September 15, 2020
Summer undergraduate research in the age of COVID-19
For years, the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology has offered undergraduates the opportunity to pursue hands-on research under the guidance of our accomplished faculty. But when the COVID-19 pandemic effectively shut down campus in spring, it was unclear how or even if undergraduate research could continue — particularly for the Summer Undergraduate...
September 14, 2020
MCB researchers shed light that detoxification machinery is kept on in some liver disease states
Bile acids are cholesterol metabolites that are well known for their role in fat digestion. Many liver diseases such as gallstones, fatty liver disease, congenital disorders lead to cholestasis, which is characterized as accumulation of bile acids in the liver. The Anakk laboratory at the University...
September 14, 2020
Collaborative team awarded $12.5 million for new NSF Biology Integration Institute
The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced a five-year, $12.5 million grant to integrate biology to a collaborative team based in the Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The new institute, Genomics and Eco-evolution of Multi-scale Symbioses (GEMS), will include molecular, organismal, computational and...
September 10, 2020
Using magnetic resonance elastography to detect epilepsy
A new study uses magnetic resonance elastography to compare the stiffness of the hippocampus in patients who have epilepsy with healthy individuals. The technique can improve the detection and characterization of the disease.
September 08, 2020
Remembering Ananda Mohan Chakrabarty
Faculty in the University of Illinois School of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Department of Biochemistry are remembering the late Professor Ananda Mohan Chakrabarty, who passed away on July 10, 2020, in Chicago.
September 02, 2020
Asma Hatoum-Aslan, new microbiology professor, named Burroughs Wellcome Fund Investigator
Congratulations to University of Illinois professor Asma Hatoum-Aslan, who was recently named a 2020 Investigator in the Pathogenesis of Infectious Disease by the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.
August 31, 2020
Precision pathogenesis: a novel approach for studying bacterial toxins in disease
As the first bacterium to be labeled a Group I carcinogen, Helicobacter pylori is the single most important risk factor for developing gastric cancer. The bacterium chronically infects over 50 percent of the world’s population and is estimated to be the third leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the world....
August 18, 2020
Decoy receptor neutralizes coronavirus in cell cultures
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, scientists and health care providers are seeking ways to keep the coronavirus from infecting tissues once they’re exposed. A new study suggests luring the virus with a decoy – an engineered, free-floating receptor protein – that binds the virus and blocks infection.
August 04, 2020
MCB students launch big dreams with the iVenture program
An experience consoling a World War II veteran in the last days of his life fostered a passion for advocating for mental health awareness in Benjamin Ray, a student in the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology and CEO of vrtumind. Pronounced “virtue-mind,” the startup applies machine learning to help students...
July 24, 2020
Researchers: Breast Cancer Deadlier in Heart Attack Survivors
Breast cancer patients are 60 percent more likely to die of cancer after surviving a heart attack, according to a new study published in Nature Medicine.
July 15, 2020
Researchers uncover a key mechanism for embryonic implantation during early pregnancy
Nearly two percent of pregnant women will face recurrent miscarriages, defined as the spontaneous loss of three or more consecutive pregnancies. Of that two percent, half of those miscarriages cannot be explained. Scientists assume genetic factors may play a role, but to date they have not been able to describe...
July 14, 2020
Volunteers at Illinois produce supplies for 200,000 COVID-19 tests
A collaborative effort at the University of Illinois to support COVID-19 testing is winding down, but not before it produced enough materials to support some 200,000 coronavirus tests across the state. Chris Brooke, a professor of microbiology who spearheaded the effort by faculty, graduate students, postdoctoral researchers, and laboratory workers, said that at...
July 07, 2020
Engineered immune cells recognize, attack human and mouse solid-tumor cancer cells
A method known as CAR-T therapy has been used successfully in patients with blood cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia. It modifies a patient’s own T-cells by adding a piece of an antibody that recognizes unique features on the surface of cancer cells. In a new study, researchers report that...
June 29, 2020
New approach drives bacteria to produce potential antibiotic, antiparasitic compounds
Researchers have developed a method to spur the production of new antibiotic or antiparasitic compounds hiding in the genomes of actinobacteria, which are the source of drugs such as actinomycin and streptomycin and are known to harbor other untapped chemical riches. The scientists report their findings in the journal eLife.
June 25, 2020
MIP Professor Benita Katzenellenbogen named Senior Advisor for the Cancer Center at Illinois
Benita S. Katzenellenbogen, Professor of Molecular and Integrative Physiology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, has been appointed Senior Advisor to the Director of the Cancer Center at Illinois (CCIL), Rohit Bhargava.
June 24, 2020
Finding a new link between cellular respiration and virulence in S. aureus
Due in part to COVID-19, more and more people realize the importance of taking early steps to understand the virulence mechanisms of pathogens, especially in the face of their widespread resistance to drugs. Doing so gives researchers and clinicians a head start in preparing against future outbreaks, which means...
June 19, 2020
Liqian Ma awarded Mead Graduate Fellowship
The University of Illinois School of Molecular and Cellular Biology is pleased to announce the inaugural recipient of the Julie and David Mead Graduate Fellowship.
June 17, 2020
Simulated sea slug gets addicted to drug
Rhanor Gillette and his colleagues simulated a sea slug brain in a computer model, added a few extra circuits, and gave it access to food and an intoxicating drug. The work offers insight into the process of addiction and will be a useful tool for further studies, Gillette said.
June 16, 2020
Team deciphers how myotonic dystrophy generates lethal heart dysfunctions
Roughly 80% of people with myotonic dystrophy – a common form of muscular dystrophy – experience dangerous heart ailments, and heart rhythm defects are the second-leading cause of death in those with the condition. In a new study, researchers traced the molecular events that lead to heart abnormalities in myotonic dystrophy and...
June 08, 2020
Bacteria show their metal: An evolutionary path to survival
An investigation of two closely related proteins from a pathogenic bacterium has illustrated for the first time how evolution can shape the use of essential metals by enzymes.
June 04, 2020
MCB's Commitment to Diversity and Equity
Dear Students, The School of Molecular and Cellular Biology would like to follow up on the statement sent out by the University of Illinois on Saturday. As noted by UI President Timothy Killeen, “The horrifying image of George Floyd dying as a police officer knelt on his neck is one that will be forever burned...
June 03, 2020
MCB researchers aim to speed up drug discovery through RiPPs
As the globe currently deals with the novel coronavirus pandemic, public interest in biological research has begun to grow. However, curative research takes time: drug discovery requires years of effort and financial resources to yield results. Even with focused endeavors, it would still take approximately two years for a CoV-2 vaccine...
May 22, 2020
MCB faculty join Congressman for discussion about COVID-19 testing, vaccines, treatments
Faculty in the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology shared the latest news and insights on COVID-19 testing, vaccines, and antibody research with U.S. Congressman Bill Foster this weekend as part of the representative’s Science Saturdays discussion on Facebook Live.
May 18, 2020
Congratulations to the Class of 2020!
On Saturday, May 16, 2020, the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology celebrated its outstanding graduates with a virtual convocation. The ceremony included a slide show about students and their future plans, shout-outs from MCB faculty, and remarks from MCB Director Milan Bagchi and Tina Knox, assistant director for advising and recruitment. The event...
May 17, 2020
MCB undergraduates receive awards from the Beckman Institute
Three undergraduate students in the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology were among the recipients of the 2020 Beckman Institute student awards and fellowships, which provide research experience. The Arnold and Mabel Beckman Foundation, as well as other scholarship and memorial funds provided by generous donors, support these programs.
May 11, 2020
Researchers find mutation hotspots for severe form of genetic epilepsy that give insights into the underlying pathogenesis
Epilepsy is a common chronic brain disorder that affects 3% of the world’s population. In epilepsy, excessive electrical activity in neurons makes them prone to misfire and trigger seizures. Nearly half of epilepsy cases are caused by genetic mutations in a variety of proteins...
May 06, 2020
A novel approach to a new career
Alumna Carole Stivers worked as a biochemist in Silicon Valley—and then started anew as a science fiction writer.
May 05, 2020
Spinal cord gives bio-bots walking rhythm
Miniature biological robots are making greater strides than ever, thanks to the spinal cord directing their steps. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign researchers developed the tiny walking “spinobots,” powered by rat muscle and spinal cord tissue on a soft, 3D-printed hydrogel skeleton. While previous generations of biological robots, or bio-bots, could move forward by simple...
April 28, 2020
Professors shift gears as they move to online courses during COVID-19
Going from teaching in front of an auditorium that seats 600 students to lecturing on a webcam at home requires patience and skill – and, for one professor, a lot of imagination.
April 24, 2020
University of Illinois partners with Carle Health and the state to increase COVID-19 testing
Back in early March, when the COVID-19 pandemic began shuttering businesses and schools across the United States, Chris Brooke wondered how he’d teach his classes online. As the virus spread with astonishing speed, however, and it became frighteningly clear that COVID-19 threatened something far greater than...
April 20, 2020
“Intracellular accumulation of staphylopine can sensitize Staphylococcus aureus to host-imposed zinc starvation by chelation-independent toxicity”
Staphylococcus aureus is an antibiotic-resistant pathogen labelled as a “serious threat to human health” by the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control. This bacteria is also the subject of a recent paper published by the laboratory of Dr. Thomas Kehl-Fie, Assistant Professor...
April 01, 2020
Study reveals neuronal response following chronic activation of an epilepsy- and autism-linked receptor
Group 1 metabotropic glutamate receptors (Gp1 mGluRs) are essential for neuroplasticity, neurodevelopment and cognition, but chronically active Gp1 mGluRs has been linked to many pathologic conditions including epilepsy and autism spectrum disorders. To characterize the effects of chronically active Gp1 mGluRs on neuroplasticity, recent graduate students Dai-Chi Liu,...
March 30, 2020
Prof. Stephen Sligar receives the Christian B. Anfinsen Award
The Christian B. Anfinsen Award, sponsored by The Protein Society, recognizes technological achievement or significant methodological advances in the field of protein science. The recipient of this award in 2020 is Professor Stephen Sligar, professor of Biochemistry and former director of the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology.
March 13, 2020
MCB virologist addresses the novel coronavirus
The best methods to prevent coronavirus infection are the same as for influenza or other respiratory viruses: frequent hand washing and avoiding contact with sick people, says MCB virologist Christopher Brooke.
March 06, 2020
Love, science, and a drink remedy for space travel
A unique and lifelong pursuit of knowledge for Carol Greenleaf and her late husband, John, began at Illinois.
February 24, 2020
Brenda Wilson named Fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology
February 21, 2020
The Freeman laboratory has discovered a pathway for reorganizing select chromosome sites
The Freeman laboratory (Cell and Developmental Biology) delineates a molecular chaperone-dependent mechanism for selectively mobilizing gene loci through the nuclear actin matrix. Their findings were published in Developmental Cell.
February 10, 2020
Researchers find a fasting-induced epigenetic pathway that promotes autophagy and lipid degradation
Autophagy or “self-eating” is a fundamental biological process by which cells digest and recycle cellular components for survival of the cells under nutrient-deprived conditions. Autophagy must be tightly controlled since deficient autophagy is associated with many diseases and aging, while excessive autophagy is also harmful because it promotes cell...
February 10, 2020
Helping epithelial cells stand tall
Many epithelial tissues are classified as being squamous, cuboidal, or columnar based upon the height of their lateral membranes. CDB researchers Yuou Wang and Bill Brieher identified a protein known as CD2AP as a key factor necessary for building up the lateral membrane.
February 06, 2020
Protruding actin microspikes mend failing adhesive contacts
Epithelial cells use an adhesion molecule known as E-cadherin to help build extensive cell-cell adhesive contacts leading to cohesive sheets of cells that separate two different environments. But what happens if the adhesive bonds holding the cells together fail? CDB researchers John Li, Vivian Tang, and Bill Brieher discovered an actin dependent...
February 04, 2020
MCB faculty collaborate on NSF grants at Beckman
ChBE professor Hyunjoon (Joon) Kong recently received two grants from the NSF to fund interdisciplinary research at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, including a look at how neurons and muscle cells communicate with each other and also to develop a drug delivery system for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease. He will...
January 30, 2020
Multiscale imaging shines light on the unique importance of bone marrow during HIV infection
HIV-1 affects and kills millions of people globally, but not enough information exists regarding the types of cells that HIV-1 targets in different tissues or the virus’s mechanism of spreading throughout the body. Viruses often ride the body’s circulatory systems to scatter throughout an organism and appear...
January 16, 2020
New cryo-EM structures of a lipid-sensitive ligand-gated ion channel
In biology, it is generally believed that a protein’s sequence determines its structure, which in turn determines its function. However, in the case of membrane proteins, the reality is more complicated than this simple statement. “In recent years, the importance of a protein’s local environment has been increasingly recognized, but the molecular-level...
January 13, 2020
School of MCB celebrates at winter holiday party
On December 12, 2019, the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology held its annual Winter Holiday Party. Faculty, staff, and graduate students came together in the Alice Campbell Alumni Center to celebrate and recognize our successes throughout the year. Coordinated by Shawna Smith and Holly Mansfield, all were treated to a night of...
January 10, 2020
William Metcalf receives Faculty Excellence Award for Research
January 09, 2020
Faculty Excellence Award in Service given to John Cronan
January 09, 2020
Lori Raetzman given Faculty Excellence Awards in Service and Teaching
January 09, 2020
New compounds block master regulator of cancer growth, metastasis
Scientists have developed new drug compounds that thwart the pro-cancer activity of FOXM1, a transcription factor that regulates the activity of dozens of genes. The new compounds suppress tumor growth in human cells and in mouse models of several types of human breast cancer.
January 07, 2020