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From the College of Natural Sciences
Ancient Enzyme Could Boost Power of Liquid Biopsies to Detect and Profile Cancers

Ancient Enzyme Could Boost Power of Liquid Biopsies to Detect and Profile Cancers

Scientists are developing a set of medical tests called liquid biopsies that can rapidly detect the presence of cancers, infectious diseases and other conditions from only a small blood sample. Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin are developing a new tool for liquid biopsy that could soon provide doctors with a more complete picture of an individual's disease, improving their chances of finding the best treatment, while also sparing patients the pain, inconvenience and long wait times associated with surgical biopsies.

Stone Named Emerging Inventor of the Year

Stone Named Emerging Inventor of the Year

Everett Stone, a research assistant professor in the Department of Molecular Biosciences at The University of Texas at Austin, has been named the 2017 Emerging Inventor of the Year by the university's Office of Technology Commercialization. The award is given to recognize faculty members who excel in their fields and whose work produces practicable innovations and life-changing discoveries.

Two Molecular Biologists Receive Early Career Research Awards

Two Molecular Biologists Receive Early Career Research Awards

​Two new UT Austin assistant professors in the Department of Molecular Biosciences have each been awarded highly competitive early career research awards.

UT Austin and Texas A&M Scientists Seek to Turn Plant Pests into Plant Doctors

UT Austin and Texas A&M Scientists Seek to Turn Plant Pests into Plant Doctors

Oleander aphid. Credit: Alex Wild

Scientists from The University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University are investigating an innovative new way to protect crops from pathogens, thanks to a four-year cooperative agreement worth up to $5 million awarded through the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency Insect Allies Program.

Scientist Battling Invincible Microbes Takes Fight to the Silver Screen

Scientist Battling Invincible Microbes Takes Fight to the Silver Screen

Bryan Davies is an assistant professor in molecular biosciences and biotechnologist at the University of Texas at Austin, leading research into how to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria and develop new antimicrobials to fight infection.

Ancient Microbes Folded their DNA Similarly to Modern Life Forms

Ancient Microbes Folded their DNA Similarly to Modern Life Forms

Archaea wrap their DNA (yellow) around proteins called histones (blue). The wrapped structure bears an uncanny resemblance to the eukaryotic nucleosome, a bundle of eight histone proteins with DNA spooled around it. But unlike eukaryotes, archaea wind their DNA around just one histone protein, and form a long, twisting structure called a superhelix. Credit: Francesca Mattiroli

As life evolved on Earth, from simple one-celled microbes to complex plants, animals and humans, their DNA grew. And that created a problem: how do you pack more and more DNA into roughly the same-sized cellular compartment? Life's solution: fold it up into a ball. Reporting in the August 10 edition of the journal Science, researchers have discovered that microbes called archaea started folding their DNA in a way very similar to that of modern plants and animals, long before complex life evolved.

New Technique Enables Safer Gene-Editing Therapy Using CRISPR

New Technique Enables Safer Gene-Editing Therapy Using CRISPR

A CRISPR protein targets specific sections of DNA and cuts them. Scientists have turned this natural defense mechanism in bacteria into a tool for gene editing. Illustration: Jenna Luecke and David Steadman/Univ. of Texas at Austin.

Scientists from The University of Texas at Austin took an important step toward safer gene-editing cures for life-threatening disorders, from cancer to HIV to Huntington's disease, by developing a technique that can spot editing mistakes a popular tool known as CRISPR makes to an individual's genome. The research appears today in the journal Cell.

First Step Taken Toward Epigenetically Modified Cotton

First Step Taken Toward Epigenetically Modified Cotton

A partly harvested cotton field. This photo used under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license. Photo credit: Kimberly Vardeman.

With prices down and weather patterns unpredictable, these are tough times for America's cotton farmers, but new research led by Z. Jeffrey Chen at The University of Texas at Austin might offer a break for the industry. He and a team have taken the first step toward a new way of breeding heartier, more productive cotton through a process called epigenetic modification.

Zhang Named Professor of the Year

Zhang Named Professor of the Year

Students have selected Jessie Zhang, an associate professor of molecular biosciences, as The University of Texas at Austin's Professor of the Year. 

International Synthetic Biology Team to Create an Ancient Cell

International Synthetic Biology Team to Create an Ancient Cell

With funding from the highly competitive Human Frontier Science Program, an international team including The University of Texas at Austin's Andrew Ellington plans to unravel billions of years of evolution to create an ancient version of a cell. 

Fight Cancer, She Must

Fight Cancer, She Must

Robed in tie-dye lab coat, graduate student Norah Ashoura meticulously guides her pipette while explaining what Star Wars has to do with the innovative research into cancer treatments coming from the George Georgiou lab group.

Image and video credits: Christian Benavides
Genetic Signatures Reveal Environment Where Bacteria Evolved

Genetic Signatures Reveal Environment Where Bacteria Evolved

Just as the fossil record reveals clues about the conditions in which prehistoric animals and plants once lived, newly discovered genetic signatures in bacterial evolution may one day allow hospitals, doctors and scientists to know more about the environment where a bacterial infection originated.

Enzyme Safely Starves Cancer Cells in Preclinical Study

Enzyme Safely Starves Cancer Cells in Preclinical Study

A research team led by scientists at The University of Texas Austin has engineered an enzyme that safely treats prostate and breast cancer in animals and also lengthens the lifespan of models that develop chronic lymphocytic leukemia. The new treatment and results from preclinical trials are described in a paper published in the Nov. 21 issue of Nature Medicine.

DNA Repair Findings Shed Light on Pathways Affecting Cancer Progression

DNA Repair Findings Shed Light on Pathways Affecting Cancer Progression

For healthy cells to become cancerous cells, they have to lose several systems that regulate healthy function such as cell growth and division and DNA repair. New findings from University of Texas at Austin researchers about how one such regulatory system works could aid in efforts to develop personalized treatments for cancer.

Flu Vaccine’s Effectiveness Can Be Improved, New Findings Suggest

Flu Vaccine’s Effectiveness Can Be Improved, New Findings Suggest

A team of engineers and scientists at The University of Texas at Austin is reporting new findings on how the influenza vaccine produces antibodies that protect against disease, research that suggests that the conventional flu vaccine can be improved. The findings were reported in the journal Nature Medicine on Nov. 7.