News and events

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...

Plant viruses may be reshaping our world

July 17, 2019

The community of viruses is staggeringly vast. Occupying every conceivable biological niche, from searing undersea vents to frigid tundra, these enigmatic invaders, hovering between inert matter and life, circumnavigate the globe in the hundreds of trillions. They are the most abundant life forms on earth. Viruses are justly feared as ingenious pathogens, causing diseases in everything they invade, including virtually all bacteria, fungi, plants and animals. Recent advances in the field of...

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...

Women caught in a pickle by their own immune systems

June 19, 2019

Women get autoimmune diseases, such as multiple sclerosis, lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, eight times more than men do. On the other hand, women have a smaller risk of getting nonreproductive cancers such as melanoma and colon, kidney and lung cancer. And while there are some exciting developments in cancer treatments, such as immunotherapies, research is showing that women are responding more favorably than men to this type of intervention.  So why is there such a big difference...

Wellbeing Commons symposium highlights the work of the state’s most prominent researchers in virology, immunology, microbiology and infectious disease

June 11, 2019

Arizona State University prides itself on an interdisciplinary, collaborative approach to solving some of the world’s most prominent problems. Led by Joshua LaBaer, the executive director of the Biodesign Institute and center director for the Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics, Arizona Wellbeing Commons (AWC) similarly emphasizes the importance of collaboration by bringing together scientists, doctors, and other partners to better human health. The key to...

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...

National Cancer Institute awards Carlo Maley $10.8M grant

November 1, 2018

When Carlo Maley first delved into his studies on the evolution of disease, he was struck with how little the field had been explored. He decided that his skills in evolution and computational biology would be well-suited for the job. “I went to PubMed and looked for all papers that had both cancer and evolution in the title … and I only came up with a handful of hits. It became clear that evolution is fundamental to the basic science of cancer, which explains why people have such a...

New Biodesign Travel Grants send students to Japan, Chicago, Palm Springs

March 21, 2018

Five students affiliated with Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute are the first recipients of the new Biodesign Student Travel Grant. The funding for this program was received from ASU Sun Devil Giving Day, a university-wide event in which Sun Devils from campus and all over the world are invited to show support for the university by engaging in online giving. Supporting students as they travel to career-building conferences is just one way to participate in 2018’s Sun Devil...

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...