News & Events

New directions for biology: ASU receives NSF Award for transdisciplinary institute

September 16, 2021

The National Science Foundation has announced the award of $12.5 million to Arizona State University for the development of a new Biological Integration Institute (BII). The award will initiate a university-wide program, under the direction of Michael Lynch, Principal Investigator, and director of the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution (CME). ASU’s new BII center will focus on the exciting, emergent field of evolutionary cell biology (ECB), a discipline Lynch has...

SARS-CoV-2: a theme and variations

August 11, 2021

The celebrations were well underway. America seemed to be emerging from the depths of the COVID-19 crisis, following some of the darkest days in the nation’s history. A vast reduction in infections, hospitalizations, and fatalities, driven by improved therapies and above all, a suite of highly effective vaccines, had brought a collective sigh of relief. The July 4th festivities were euphorically anticipated, marking not only the nation’s independence from colonial rule but its...

The far-reaching effects of mutagens on human health

December 21, 2020

In order to survive, flourish and successfully reproduce, organisms rely on a high degree of genetic stability. Mutagenic agents, which can threaten the integrity of the genetic code by causing mutations in DNA, pose a serious risk to human health. They have long been implicated in a range of genetically inherited afflictions, as well as cancer, aging and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. It now appears that mutagenic threats to a cell’s subtle machinery may be far more...

MELTDOWN: Can we push SARS CoV-2 off an evolutionary cliff?

May 14, 2020

From New York to Luxembourg, Namibia, Iceland and Bhutan, the novel coronavirus SARS CoV-2 has turned the modern world into a crisis zone. An unprecedented global effort is underway to understand the elusive pathogen and find effective therapies. An intriguing approach to treating Covid-19, the disease caused by the emergent virus, has recently been suggested by Arizona State University faculty members Jeff Jensen (Center for Evolution and Medicine) and Michael Lynch (Biodesign Center for...

Aquatic microorganisms offer important window on the history of life

November 25, 2019

The air, earth and water of our planet are pulsating with living things. Yet, a vast and diverse web of life exists, about which almost nothing is known. This is the world of flagellates, tiny organisms that persist in staggering numbers in many diverse ecosystems around the world. According to Jeremy Wideman, a researcher at the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms in Evolution at Arizona State University, we have a great deal to learn from these delicate and wildly varied creatures. Among other...

Sex, lies and crustaceans: New study highlights peculiar reproductive strategies of Daphnia

July 15, 2019

Flourishing in spectacular numbers in lakes and ponds around the world, tiny creatures known as Daphnia play an essential role in freshwater ecology. Daphnia, a type of planktonic crustacean, are the primary consumers of algae and are an important food source for fish and other aquatic life. Daphnia are ubiquitous in freshwater sources, but their mode of reproduction, known as cyclic parthenogenesis—which involves alternating phases of both sexual and asexual reproduction— is an...

Controversy surrounding red wolves and Mexican gray wolves clarified in new study

April 2, 2019

Once, they roamed free in great numbers across the deserts, arboreal forests, grasslands and arctic tundra of the continental US. Today, wolf populations have been sadly depleted, the result of human ignorance, cruelty and loss of their vital habitats. The red wolf and Mexican gray wolf are among the most endangered mammals in North America. Both species at one time were extinct in the wild. At last count, an estimated 114 wild Mexican gray wolves remain in the U.S. and only about 40 red...

Survival of all-female fish species points to its DNA

February 12, 2018

The very rare animals that reproduce asexually — only about one in a thousand of all vertebrate species — are thought to be at an extreme fitness and ecological disadvantage compared to their sexual counterparts, who always reshuffle their DNA to make each offspring genetically unique. But that theory doesn’t hold true for the Amazon molly, an all-female fish species that scientists have now traced back its evolutionary history to show that is has thrived for millennia in the...

Scientists explore mysteries behind diversity of DNA composition among species

January 2, 2018

To make the iconic, twisted double helix that accounts for the diversity of life, DNA rules specify that G always pairs with C, and A with T. But, when it’s all added up, the amount of G+C vs A+T content among species is not a simple fixed percentage or, standard one-to-one ratio. For example, within single-celled organisms, the amount of G+C content can vary from 72 percent in a bacteria like Streptomyces coelicolor while the protozoan parasite that causes malaria, Plasmondium falciparum,...

Genome fidelity and its consequences for cellular health

November 16, 2017

Non-inherited, chance mutations may also provide a new window into understanding human disease  It’s biology’s version of the whisper game.  Inside a cell, every DNA phrase or sentence that makes a protein, known as a gene, first must be precisely copied, to ensure its instructions can properly build the foundation of life. But much like children tasked in the game with faithfully whispering a phrase to one another, each time, there is the possibility of introducing errors...