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From the College of Natural Sciences
Researchers Solve Decades-Old DNA Mystery

Researchers Solve Decades-Old DNA Mystery

A team of researchers from The University of Texas at Austin and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center have solved a decades-old mystery about how DNA organizes itself in the cell. In doing so, the researchers have potentially unlocked clues about a set of rare genetic conditions.

Three Natural Sciences Professors Win UT Invent & Innovate Awards

Three Natural Sciences Professors Win UT Invent & Innovate Awards

Eric Anslyn, Edward Marcotte and George Georgiou were honored at an event this month honoring the top innovations and inventions of the year to come out of The University of Texas at Austin.

An Experimental Anti-Cancer Drug Has an Unexpected Method of Attacking Cancer

An Experimental Anti-Cancer Drug Has an Unexpected Method of Attacking Cancer

Researchers were surprised to find that BET inhibitors have a second mechanism of attacking cancer cells, namely damaging the cell's DNA. Credit: iStock.

A widely used class of chemotherapy drugs, called topoisomerase inhibitors, come with some serious downsides: bone marrow damage, reduced blood cell production, diarrhea and heart damage. And some cancers can quickly develop resistance. A new discovery about a second class of drugs might lead to combination therapies that are just as effective, but with fewer downsides.

Biologist Awarded Grant to Study Effects of Chemicals in the Environment on Embryos

Biologist Awarded Grant to Study Effects of Chemicals in the Environment on Embryos

An associate professor of molecular biosciences at the University of Texas at Austin is one of two individuals this year to receive a Sustaining Outstanding Achievement in Research (SOAR) award from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. Johann Eberhart was awarded the eight-year, $7.6 million grant to study the genetic and environmental causes of human birth defects of the head and face, which now occur in up to 5% of all births.

Urbain Weyemi Looks for the Unexpected to Better Understand Cancer

Urbain Weyemi Looks for the Unexpected to Better Understand Cancer

A noted researcher at the intersection of cancer biology, neurodegeneration and epigenetics, Urbain Weyemi is joining the Department of Molecular Biosciences with the help of a recruitment grant from the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT). We connected with Weyemi as he makes the move from Johns Hopkins University to The University of Texas at Austin.

Microbe Research Team Awarded Gold Medal at 2019 iGEM Competition

Microbe Research Team Awarded Gold Medal at 2019 iGEM Competition

​A team of undergraduate researchers involved with the Department of Molecular Biosciences received awards in two categories at the 2019 International Genetically Engineered Machine (iGEM) Jamboree, the largest showcase of synthetic biology innovations in the world.

Discovery Gives Insight into How Seeds Germinate in Response to Light

Discovery Gives Insight into How Seeds Germinate in Response to Light

Biologists at the University of Texas at Austin have discovered one of the key processes that let plants know when the time is right to grow and develop from seeds. The findings, published in Nature Communications, could enable future advances to improve crop yields and develop plants that can withstand a changing climate or even grow in the shade.

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.