News and events

Research center welcomes new associate director

July 24, 2020

John McCutcheon was recently hired as the associate director of the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution. He will start at ASU Aug. 16. McCutcheon studies endosymbiosis—the process by which one cell becomes a long-term resident inside another cell. He is interested in how and why symbioses form, how they are maintained and what happens as the associations become more and more intertwined. His current work is focused on questions at the cell biological and biochemical level. Prior...

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 novel coronavirus, has recently been suggested by Arizona State University faculty members Jeff Jensen (Center for Evolution and Medicine) and Michael Lynch (Biodesign Center for...

Beating cancer by taking the unbeaten path

April 6, 2020

Athena Aktipis could be called a “Renaissance woman.” After all, she’s a psychologist, evolutionary biologist, cancer biologist and studies conflict and cooperation. She crosses boundaries and colors outside the lines in her quest to find answers to questions about human nature and the nature of life on earth. At Arizona State University, she is a co-leader of the Arizona Cancer Evolution Center; at the Biodesign Institute at ASU, she is a member of three different research centers;...

Oversupply of energy could put you at risk of developing cancer

March 9, 2020

Growing up, we are told that eating a balanced diet is pivotal to our health. After all, food is what supplies our body with the energy we need day to day. And it’s well understood that obesity, diabetes and chronic inflammation – common ailments tied to diet – hinder our health, often contributing to a higher chance of developing cancer. But the mechanism underlying this increase has not been well established – until now. Athena Aktipis, assistant professor in the Psychology...

Cliques, binges and bullies: What animals tell us about teen behavior

December 20, 2019

It’s not easy being teen. Negative images of adolescents populate the media. Words like moody, selfish, impulsive, disrespectful and even dangerous come to mind.  Suicide rates among teens and young adults have reached their highest point in nearly two decades. Adolescence is a particularly malleable time for mental and social development. Gaining a better understanding of the teenage brain and behavior can make this time an opportunity, rather than a calamity. In their recently...

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...

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...

Cancer without end? Discovery yields fresh insights

August 1, 2019

If there is any consolation to be found in cancer, it may be that the devastating disease dies with the individual carrying it. Or so it had long been assumed. Recent research, however, has uncovered some forms of cancer that are transmissible, jumping from one host to another. Indeed, one such contagious cancer, known as canine transmissible venereal tumor (CTVT), has managed to persist in dogs for thousands of years. In a new commentary appearing in the August 2nd issue of the journal...

ASU researchers discover more than 100 viruses in honeybees

July 31, 2019

With bee populations on the decline, researchers have a growing interest in the viruses that may be affecting them. However, with the exception of a few well-known viruses, very little is known about virus populations in bees. A team of researchers in Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences, led by a collaboration between the labs of life sciences professors Arvind Varsani and Brian Smith, decided to change that by conducting the first ever mass genomic study...

Major class of viruses reveals complex origins

July 31, 2019

Comparing a living cell to a virus is a bit like comparing the Sistine Chapel to a backyard dog house. Lacking the intricate machinery of living cells, viruses represent biology stripped down to an extreme level. They are the true minimalists of the biological world. Nevertheless, the field of virology is brimming with unanswered questions about these architecturally simple, yet mysterious entities. In new research, Arvind Varsani, a molecular virologist at Arizona State University, joins a...