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From the College of Natural Sciences
'Last Resort' Antibiotic Pops Bacteria Like Balloons

'Last Resort' Antibiotic Pops Bacteria Like Balloons

A 70-year mystery has finally been solved and the solution could help in the fight against antibiotic resistant bacteria. A new study led by researchers at Imperial College London, and including UT Austin's Despoina Mavridou, reveals that colistin, a last resort antibiotic "punches holes in bacteria, causing them to pop like balloons." Published i...
Our Immune Systems Blanket the SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein with Antibodies

Our Immune Systems Blanket the SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein with Antibodies

An analysis of blood plasma samples from people who recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infections shows that most of the antibodies circulating in the blood -- on average, about 84% -- target areas of the viral spike protein outside the receptor binding domain (RBD, green), including the N-terminal Domain (NTD, blue) and the S2 subunit (red, yellow). Illustration credit: University of Texas at Austin.

The most complete picture yet is coming into focus of how antibodies produced in people who effectively fight off SARS-CoV-2 work to neutralize the part of the virus responsible for causing infection. In the journal Science, researchers at The University of Texas at Austin describe the finding, which represents good news for designing the next generation of vaccines to protect against variants of the virus or future emerging coronaviruses.

Black and Latinx Advocacy Council and CNS Announce Aspire Award Winners

Black and Latinx Advocacy Council and CNS Announce Aspire Award Winners

For more than a decade, the Aspire Awards have provided an occasion for faculty, staff and students to recognize undergraduate leaders in the College of Natural Sciences. The event celebrates undergraduate students from underrepresented groups in the sciences, recognizing their achievements in research, service and leadership. This year, 25 students were given Aspire awards in several categories. The event is a collaboration between the college's Office of Undergraduate Education and the student-led Black and Latinx Advocacy Council.

Climate-friendly Microbes Chomp Dead Plants Without Releasing Heat-trapping Methane

Climate-friendly Microbes Chomp Dead Plants Without Releasing Heat-trapping Methane

Tengchong Yunnan hot springs in China, where some of the newly described Brockarchaeota were collected. Photo credit: Jian-Yu Jiao from Sun Yat-Sen University.

The tree of life just got a little bigger: A team of scientists from the U.S. and China has identified an entirely new group of microbes quietly living in hot springs, geothermal systems and hydrothermal sediments around the world. The microbes appear to be playing an important role in the global carbon cycle by helping break down decaying plants without producing the greenhouse gas methane.

Undergraduate Research Aims to Harness the Power of Mealworms to Degrade Plastic

Undergraduate Research Aims to Harness the Power of Mealworms to Degrade Plastic

Interior of a bin with polyethylene and mealworms. Photo courtesy of Emily Samson.

​In search of a way to reduce the amount of plastic pollution an individual creates, a team of undergraduates in the UT Austin Inventors Program are exploring how mealworms, and the microbes in their guts, can naturally degrade household plastics.

Scientists Discover How Remdesivir Works to Inhibit Coronavirus

Scientists Discover How Remdesivir Works to Inhibit Coronavirus

Remdesivir is the only antiviral drug approved for use in the U.S. against COVID-19. Photo courtesy of Gilead.

More effective antiviral treatments could be on the way after research from The University of Texas at Austin sheds new light on the COVID-19 antiviral drug remdesivir, the only treatment of its kind currently approved in the U.S. for the coronavirus.

Antibody Test Developed for COVID-19 That is Sensitive, Specific and Scalable

Antibody Test Developed for COVID-19 That is Sensitive, Specific and Scalable

An antibody test for the virus that causes COVID-19, developed by researchers at The University of Texas at Austin in collaboration with Houston Methodist and other institutions, is more accurate and can handle a much larger number of donor samples at lower overall cost than standard antibody tests currently in use. In the near term, the test can be used to accurately identify the best donors for convalescent plasma therapy and measure how well candidate vaccines and other therapies elicit an immune response.

Tiny Insects Provide Inspiration for New Biomaterials

Tiny Insects Provide Inspiration for New Biomaterials

Oncometopia hamiltoni leafhopper insect. Photo by Alex Wild, used with permission.

They may be tiny, but leafhoppers have a super power: they secrete a substance that makes their bodies water-repellant and anti-reflective, which may help them blend in with their surroundings and escape surface tension. Symbiotic bacteria living in the leafhoppers appear to assist in producing the substance and its soccer-ball-shaped nanostructures called brochosomes, but the process is something of a mystery.

COVID-19 Vaccine Innovation Could Dramatically Speed Up Worldwide Production

COVID-19 Vaccine Innovation Could Dramatically Speed Up Worldwide Production

Jason S. McLellan, associate professor of molecular biosciences, left, and graduate student Daniel Wrapp, right, work in the McLellan Lab at The University of Texas at Austin Monday Feb. 17, 2020.

Responding to a need to quickly develop billions of doses of lifesaving COVID-19 vaccines, a scientific team at The University of Texas at Austin has successfully redesigned a key protein from the coronavirus, and the modification could enable much faster and more stable production of vaccines worldwide.

Antibodies from a SARS Patient Could Help Fight Coronaviruses Now and in the Future

Antibodies from a SARS Patient Could Help Fight Coronaviruses Now and in the Future

Scientists from UT Austin and elsewhere found many human antibodies that bind to the spike protein of SARS-like viruses. On the left, two copies of an antibody dubbed ADI-55689 (orange) bind two different sites on the spike protein (white). On the right, a different antibody dubbed ADI-56046 (purple) binds another site on the spike protein. These antibody binding sites are close to sites where the spike protein binds to receptors on the surface of human cells (red) and to another monoclonal antibody dubbed CR3022 (light blue).

As terrifying as the current pandemic is, scientists believe some of the hundreds of other known coronaviruses in bats might also have the potential to make the cross-species leap into humans, as this one probably did. Scientists are already thinking about ways to prevent another coronavirus from spiraling out of control. Basic research published in the journal Science provides evidence that an antibody therapy that's effective against all SARS-like coronaviruses is possible.