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From the College of Natural Sciences
Coronavirus Mutation May Have Made It More Contagious

Coronavirus Mutation May Have Made It More Contagious

The number of virus strains present in each zip code in Houston during the second wave of COVID-19 cases in summer 2020. Number of strains is represented by a spectrum of colors from blue (0 strains) to red (50 strains). Credit: Houston Methodist/University of Texas at Austin.

A study involving more than 5,000 COVID-19 patients in Houston finds that the virus that causes the disease is accumulating genetic mutations, one of which may have made it more contagious. According to the paper published in the peer-reviewed journal mBIO, that mutation, called D614G, is located in the spike protein that pries open our cells for viral entry. It's the largest peer-reviewed study of SARS-CoV-2 genome sequences in one metropolitan region of the U.S. to date.

Is Coronavirus Mutating Amid its Rapid U.S. Spread?

Is Coronavirus Mutating Amid its Rapid U.S. Spread?

A new study, currently awaiting peer review and involving more than 5,000 COVID-19 patients in Houston, finds that the virus that causes the disease is accumulating genetic mutations, one of which may have made it more contagious. According to the paper posted this week to the preprint server medRxiv, that mutation, called D614G, was also implicated in an earlier study in the UK in possibly making the virus easier to spread. The Washington Post was among several outlets reporting the findings this week.

Genomes Assembled from Five Cotton Species Could Lead to Better Varieties

Genomes Assembled from Five Cotton Species Could Lead to Better Varieties

Researchers assembled the genomes of five cotton varieties, revealing their evolutionary history and new insights for breeding. Flower images by Atsumi Ando (UT Austin) and field of cotton by James Frelichowskin (USDA-ARS, College Station).

Cotton producers in Texas, elsewhere in the US and around the world are looking for new varieties that can better withstand droughts, pests and pathogens, yet yield higher-quality fibers for the textile industry.

Science Amid the Social Distance (Audio)

Science Amid the Social Distance (Audio)

Daily life has changed for many of us due to the coronavirus pandemic. During this unusual time, when it's harder to connect physically with important people in our lives, it can be helpful to step back and spend a little time thinking about the things that still bind us together, like the wonder of the natural world and the hope that scientists offer us as we take on societal challenges.

Bacteria Engineered to Protect Bees from Pests and Pathogens

Bacteria Engineered to Protect Bees from Pests and Pathogens

A Varroa mite, a common pest that can weaken bees and make them more susceptible to pathogens, feeds on a honey bee. Photo credit: Alex Wild/University of Texas at Austin.

Scientists from The University of Texas at Austin report in the journal Science that they have developed a new strategy to protect honey bees from a deadly trend known as colony collapse: genetically engineered strains of bacteria.

Discovering a Genetic Mechanism that Affects Birth Defects, Some Cancers

Discovering a Genetic Mechanism that Affects Birth Defects, Some Cancers

Scientists have understood for some time that proper embryonic development depends in large part on transcriptional repressors, proteins that prevent genes from being expressed at inappropriate times. Steven Vokes, associate professor of molecular biosciences at the University of Texas at Austin, and his team focus on a set of proteins called GLI (glioma-associated oncogene) and how they control gene expression in response to what is known as the Hedgehog pathway.

Scientists Identify Genes that Help Protect Plant Genomes

Scientists Identify Genes that Help Protect Plant Genomes

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin and elsewhere have identified genes in plants that help maintain protective caps on the ends of their DNA. Because the genes have analogs in the human genome, the findings may hold important implications for our understanding of age-related disorders and cancers in humans.

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.

Central Texas Salamanders, Including Newly Identified Species, At Risk of Extinction

Central Texas Salamanders, Including Newly Identified Species, At Risk of Extinction

This newly identified, unnamed salamander lives near the Pedernales river west of Austin, Texas. Photo credit: Tom Devitt.

Biologists at The University of Texas at Austin have discovered three new species of groundwater salamander in Central Texas, including one living west of Austin that they say is critically endangered. They also determined that an already known salamander species near Georgetown is much more endangered than previously thought.

UT Scientists, Mathematicians and High Schoolers Partner for Success

UT Scientists, Mathematicians and High Schoolers Partner for Success

Gold medalists in an astrophysics Olympic-style event, award-winners at a statewide science fair and budding genetic engineers who shared their research 2,000 miles away are among the high schoolers who found success after working closely with members of the Texas Science community in 2018.