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Life Sciences

Ancient African herders had lasting ecological impact on grazed lands

Ancient animal herders added to the ecological richness and diversity of the African savanna thousands of years ago – an effect that persists to the present day, a new study finds. The herders’ practice of penning their cattle, goats and sheep at night created nutrient-rich grassy glades, called hotspots, that still attract wildlife and have increased habitat diversity in the region, researchers report in the journal Nature.

Post-workout muscle building and repair blunted in obese adults, study finds

Obesity is associated with a host of health problems, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure. According to a new study reported in the Journal of Physiology, obesity also diminishes a person’s ability to build muscle after engaging in resistance exercise.

Connectivity explains ecosystem responses to rainfall, drought

In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers reveal techniques – inspired by the study of information theory – to track how changes in precipitation alter interactions between the atmosphere, vegetation and soil at two National Science Foundation Critical Zone Observatory sites in the western United States.

A professor not afraid to cross academic boundaries

Illinois professor Ruby Mendenhall is focused on issues of poverty, inequality and violence, but crosses many academic boundaries in search of answers.

Pointy eggs more likely to stay put in birds’ cliffside nests, study finds

Natural selection—that merciless weeder-outer of biological designs that are out of step with the times—also is a wily shaper of traits. Exhibit A is the pointy murre egg, according to new research published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.

New CRISPR technique skips over portions of genes that can cause disease

In a new study in cells, University of Illinois researchers have adapted CRISPR gene-editing technology to cause the cell’s internal machinery to skip over a small portion of a gene when transcribing it into a template for protein building. This gives researchers a way not only to eliminate a mutated gene sequence, but to influence how the gene is expressed and regulated. Such targeted editing could one day be useful for treating genetic diseases caused by mutations in the genome, such as Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy, Huntington’s disease or some cancers.

Study: Human wastewater valuable to global agriculture, economics

It may seem off-putting to some, but human waste is full of nutrients that can be recycled into valuable products that could promote agricultural sustainability and better economic independence for some developing countries.

For now, Illinois’ imperiled eastern massasauga rattlesnakes retain their genetic diversity

A long-term study of eastern massasauga rattlesnakes in Illinois reveals that – despite their alarming decline in numbers – the few remaining populations have retained a surprising amount of genetic diversity.

Genomic study ties insect evolution to the ability to detect airborne odors

A new study reveals that all insects use specialized odorant receptors that enable them to detect and pursue mates, identify enemies, find food and – unfortunately for humans – spread disease. This puts to rest a recent hypothesis that only some insects evolved the ability to detect airborne odors as an adaptation to flight, the researchers said.

Nowhere to hide: Molecular probe illuminates elusive cancer stem cells in live mice

After a primary tumor is treated, cancer stem cells may still lurk in the body, ready to metastasize and cause a recurrence of the cancer in a form that’s more aggressive and resistant to treatment. University of Illinois researchers have developed a molecular probe that seeks out these elusive cells and lights them up so they can be identified, tracked and studied not only in cell cultures, but in their native environment: the body.

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