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Life Sciences

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.

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.

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