Button to scroll to the top of the page.

News

From the College of Natural Sciences
5 Ways UT Science is Fighting Back on Microplastics

5 Ways UT Science is Fighting Back on Microplastics

On a clear day on the beach in Port Aransas, Jace Tunnell noticed clear and multi-colored pellets collecting on the sand at the high tide line. On closer inspection, he discovered the pellets were tiny, round bits of plastic. And there looked to be millions of them.

Explaining the Science: The Potential of Bacteriophages in a Post-Antibiotics World

Explaining the Science: The Potential of Bacteriophages in a Post-Antibiotics World

As antibiotic-resistant bacteria, like MRSA and resistant strains of tuberculosis and gonorrhea, become more prevalent, health officials are wondering how long antibiotics will be able to hold up against their bacterial foes. And what comes next?

Experimental Vaccine Against Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Elicits Strong Immune Response

Experimental Vaccine Against Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Elicits Strong Immune Response

An experimental vaccine against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), one of the leading causes of infectious disease deaths in infants, has shown early promise in a Phase 1 human clinical trial. A team of researchers, including The University of Texas at Austin's Jason McLellan, report today in the journal Science that one dose of their vaccine candidate elicited large increases in RSV-neutralizing antibodies that were sustained for several months.

Turning Plant Pests into Helpers

Turning Plant Pests into Helpers

As any farmer or summer gardener knows, tiny aphids represent an enemy for most crops. The insects like many of the same plants that we rely on for food, and aphids can sometimes spread plant diseases, similar to the way mosquitos spread human diseases.

Scientists Capture First-Ever Video of Body’s Safety Test for T-cells

Scientists Capture First-Ever Video of Body’s Safety Test for T-cells

For the first time, immunologists from The University of Texas at Austin have captured on video what happens when T-cells – the contract killers of the immune system, responsible for wiping out bacteria and viruses – undergo a type of assassin-training program before they get unleashed in the body. A new imaging technique that allowed for the videos, described today in the journal Nature Communications, holds promise for the fight against autoimmune disorders such as Type 1 diabetes.

The Tool Maker: The Double Life of Everett Stone

The Tool Maker: The Double Life of Everett Stone

A story about how a blacksmith (Everett Stone) learned to forge new tools in the fight against cancer. Photo by Marsha Miller.

For Everett Stone, being a cancer researcher is not so different from being a blacksmith. "I feel like an overarching theme in my career is that I've made many, many tools. Some of them are good enough to be medicines," he says.

Antibodies From Earlier Exposures Affect Response To New Flu Strains

Antibodies From Earlier Exposures Affect Response To New Flu Strains

We are repeatedly exposed to the influenza virus via infections, vaccinations and our communal environments. The annual flu shot is believed to be the best line of defense, and doctors recommend vaccinations every year because the flu virus is in a constant state of adaptation and mutation, rendering older vaccines obsolete.

Scientists Synthesize a New Type of DNA with Extra Building Blocks

Scientists Synthesize a New Type of DNA with Extra Building Blocks

A DNA double helix built from eight hachimoji building blocks: G (green), A (red), C (dark blue), T (yellow), B (cyan), S (pink), P (purple) and Z (orange). The first four building blocks are found in human DNA; the last four are synthetic. Each strand of the double helix has the sequence CTTAPCBTASGZTAAG. Image credit: Millie Georgiadis/ Indiana University School of Medicine.

A team of synthetic biologists led by Steven Benner at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution—and including Andy Ellington at The University of Texas at Austin—have synthesized a new kind of DNA that uses eight building blocks instead of the four found in all earthly life. Reporting today in the journal Science, the researchers suggest the new eight-letter DNA could find applications in medicine and biological computing. The finding also has implications for how scientists think about life elsewhere in the universe.

HIV Hidden in Patients’ Cells Can Now Be Accurately Measured

HIV Hidden in Patients’ Cells Can Now Be Accurately Measured

This human T cell (blue) is under attack by HIV (yellow), the virus that causes AIDS. The virus specifically targets T cells, which play a critical role in the body's immune response against invaders like bacteria and viruses. Credit: Seth Pincus, Elizabeth Fischer and Austin Athman, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health.

Until now, researchers haven't been able to accurately quantify a latent form of HIV that persists in patients' immune cells. This hampers doctors' ability to assess the effectiveness of a particular treatment and select better alternatives.

Scientists Uncover RNA Silencing Technique to Change Seed Size in Plants

Scientists Uncover RNA Silencing Technique to Change Seed Size in Plants

In a development with promising implications for crop farmers in the U.S. and around the world, scientists at The University of Texas at Austin have figured out how to get some plants to produce nearly one-third bigger seeds.

Scientists Coax Proteins to Form Synthetic Structures with Method that Mimics Nature

Scientists Coax Proteins to Form Synthetic Structures with Method that Mimics Nature

As a proof of concept, a team of researchers at the University of Texas at Austin built tiny structures that resemble two doughnuts stacked on top of each other by applying electrical charges to specific spots on naturally occurring proteins. Credit: University of Texas at Austin.

Scientists have long dreamed of creating synthetic structures out of the same raw material that nature uses in living systems — proteins — believing such an advance would allow for the development of transformative nanomachines, for example, molecular cages that precisely deliver chemotherapy drugs to tumors or photosynthetic systems for harvesting energy from light. Now a team of biologists from The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Michigan have invented a way to build synthetic structures from proteins, and just as in nature, the method is simple and could be used for a variety of purposes.

Bacteria Help Scientists Discover Human Cancer-Causing Proteins

Bacteria Help Scientists Discover Human Cancer-Causing Proteins

Researchers genetically modified E coli bacteria to fluoresce red when DNA was damaged. Then, they overexpressed each of the bacteria’s 4,000 genes individually and determined which proteins made bacteria glow red. With these bacterial proteins as a guide, they identified more than 100 analogous human proteins that are now implicated in DNA damage and initiation of cancer. Image credit: Jun Xia.

A team led by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and Baylor College of Medicine has applied an unconventional approach involving bacteria to discover human proteins that can lead to DNA damage and promote cancer. This could lead to new tests to identify people who are likely to develop cancer. Reported in the journal Cell, the study also proposes biological mechanisms by which these proteins can damage DNA, opening possibilities for future cancer treatments.

Two UT Scientists Part of Project to Detect ‘Life As We Don’t Know It’

Two UT Scientists Part of Project to Detect ‘Life As We Don’t Know It’

Eric Anslyn and Andrew Ellington.

A nearly $7 million grant from NASA is supporting research to develop approaches to detecting extraterrestrial life, and two University of Texas at Austin faculty are part of the interdisciplinary scientific team.

New Protein Sequencing Method Could Transform Biological Research

New Protein Sequencing Method Could Transform Biological Research

An ultra-sensitive new method for identifying the series of amino acids in individual proteins (a.k.a. protein sequencing) can accelerate research on biomarkers for cancer and other diseases. Credit: David Steadman/University of Texas at Austin.

A team of researchers at The University of Texas at Austin has demonstrated a new way to sequence proteins that is much more sensitive than existing technology, identifying individual protein molecules rather than requiring millions of molecules at a time. The advance could have a major impact in biomedical research, making it easier to reveal new biomarkers for the diagnosis of cancer and other diseases, as well as enhance our understanding of how healthy cells function.

Two Studies Shed Light on How Complex CRISPR Systems Work

Two Studies Shed Light on How Complex CRISPR Systems Work

In a pair of papers out this week, scientists at the University of Texas at Austin made new discoveries about a remarkable naturally occurring system known as CRISPR.