News and events

Criss-crossing viruses give rise to peculiar hybrid variants

October 29, 2020

For millions of years, viruses have participated in a far-flung, import-export business, exchanging fragments of themselves with both viral and non-viral agents and acquiring new features.  What these tiny entities lack in outward complexity, they make up for with their astonishing abilities to swap out modular genomic components and ceaselessly reinvent themselves. In new research appearing in the journal mBio, Arvind Varsani and his colleagues investigate a recently discovered class...

New techniques probe vital and elusive proteins

October 6, 2020

The number of proteins in the human body, collectively known as the proteome, is vast. Somewhere between 80,000 and 400,000 proteins circulate in our cells, tissues and organs, carrying out a broad range of duties essential for life. When proteins go awry, they are responsible for a myriad of serious diseases. Now, researchers at the Biodesign Center for Applied Structural Discovery and ASU’s School of Molecular Sciences, along with their colleagues, investigate a critically important...

ASU professor receives prestigious award for mentoring, interdisciplinary research

September 25, 2020

Ferran Garcia-Pichel, Arizona State University professor and researcher, has been awarded the 2021 D.C. White Award by the American Society for Microbiology. The American Society for Microbiology is one of the largest professional societies dedicated to the life sciences and is composed of 30,000 scientists and health practitioners. The award recognizes distinguished accomplishments in both interdisciplinary research and mentoring. It was created in honor of David C. White,...

Arizona genetic research group tracks initial spread of SARS-CoV-2

September 16, 2020

Seeds of widespread ‘community’ distribution began mid-February Initial findings reported by the Arizona COVID-19 Genomics Union (ACGU) suggest that following Arizona’s first reported case of COVID-19 in late January, the state experienced no cases that went undetected and was COVID-19-free until at least 11 distinct incursions occurred between mid-February and early April. Efrem Lim, a virologist who leads the ASU contributions to the ACGU, said the SARS-CoV-2 genome sequence...

ASU scientific team finds new, unique mutation in coronavirus study

May 7, 2020

As the coronavirus pandemic has swept across the U.S., in addition to tracking the number of COVID-19 daily cases, there is a worldwide scientific community engaged in tracking the SARS-CoV-2 virus itself. Efrem Lim leads a team at Arizona State University that looks at how the virus may be spreading, mutating and adapting over time. To trace the trail of the virus worldwide, Lim’s team is using a new technology at ASU’s Genomics Facility called next-generation...

Making sense of the viral multiverse

April 27, 2020

In November of 2019—likely, even earlier—a tiny entity measuring just a few hundred billionths of a meter in diameter began to tear apart human society on a global scale. Within a few months, the relentless voyager known as SARS-CoV-2 had made its way to every populated corner of the earth, leaving scientists and health authorities with too many questions and few answers. Today, researchers are scrambling to understand where and how the novel coronavirus arose, what features account for...

ASU study finds microplastics create new homes for microbes in the Caribbean

February 19, 2020

With 5 trillion pieces of plastic in the oceans, the dynamics of marine environments are shifting in ways that are yet to be discovered. Over time, discarded plastics such as sandwich bags and flip-flops have degraded into small particles, called microplastics, which are less than 5 millimeters long. Kassandra Dudek, doctoral student at Arizona State University's School of Life Sciences and former Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) fellow, looked at how...

Mother-baby microbiome rush at birth can have lifelong health impact for the infant

January 29, 2020

Every mother wants to give their newborn the very best start. During the nine months of gestation, women understand that eating right, breathing fresh air, exercising and maintaining a positive mindset during pregnancy are important to giving birth to a healthy baby. But many do not know just how important the very moment of birth is in shaping the infant’s long-term well-being. This is a pivotal time when a massive amount of the mother’s microbes are being actively transferred to the...

Just follow the ‘butterfly’

January 9, 2020

Have you ever wondered what Earth was like in its distant past? It was indeed very different from today. For one, the atmosphere contained no oxygen, so none of us would have survived it. This all changed when cyanobacteria arose – microbes that release oxygen from photosynthesis. Over an incredibly long period of time, the cyanobacteria continued to release oxygen, and little by little, it changed the Earth’s chemistry. They first oxidized the Earth’s minerals, and oceans -- and, then...

Myxoma's viral leap into Iberian hares sheds light on how viruses swap genetic material

November 6, 2019

Viruses are all around us – they are present in most environments, lying in wait for the optimal host, and they even reside within our bodies, whether we know it or not. While hopping from species to species, these viruses can swap genetic material with each other and sometimes even with the host. In fact, over the course of millions of years, viral DNA has been integrated into human chromosomes. It is estimated that about 100,000 pieces of viral DNA have merged with human DNA, making up...