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News roundup: August 2020

News roundup: August 2020

The future of microbiome science depends on data science.
Everything from microbiome diagnosis to microbiome transplants rely on vast amounts of data analysis. (

Evolutionary biology holds clues for understanding how the genome, microbiome, and environment interact to guide organismal development
Research on the humble hydra provides clues to “phenotypic plasticity”—changes in behavior and biology in response to environmental changes. (Phy.Org)

Can the human immune system mount a lasting defense against SARS-CoV-2?
Several leading immunologists, including UChicago’s Luis Barreiro, weigh in. (Nature)

What’s the prognosis for a COVID vaccine that can return our lives to normalcy?
UChicago scientists Jeffrey Hubbell and Kathleen Mullane offer insights. (Chicago Tribune)

Does the urinary microbiome influence incontinence?
Recent research suggests a connection. (Harvard Health Publishing)


News roundup: July 2020

News roundup: July 2020

Do plants hold a key for understanding our own immune systems? Researchers identify plant genes that select which microbes get to live inside leaves, safeguarding plant health. (Futurity)

Historical studies of infants’ poop suggest their microbiomes are more malleable than adults’. Research suggests probiotics may have the power to improve the health of those under two years. (The Scientist)

Are worldwide increases in inflammatory bowel disease worldwide caused by mothers passing on their microbiomes to their children? Researchers are finding gut microbiota alterations in IBD moms persists during pregnancy and are reflected in the microbiota of their infants’ stool, potentially changing their adaptive immune systems. (Gut Microbiota for Health)

Researchers are identifying some factors to predict who becomes sickest with COVID-19 infections. High levels of cytokine alpha interferon and inflammasome activation increase severity, but high levels of cytokine “growth factors” is a positive sign. (MedicalXpress)

Do those with IBD have more reason to worry about COVID-19? Data so far suggest not. UChicago’s David Rubin, MD, suggests IBD patients on immunosuppressants continue their medications but maintain a social distance regimen. (Health Central)


News roundup: June 2020

News roundup: June 2020

Local EMT likely the world’s first double lung transplant recipient to survive COVID-19 via convalescent plasma. It was likely the only option to beat the disease for this young cystic fibrosis survivor, who received both the transplant and the plasma at UChicago Medicine. (Chicago Tribune)

UChicago will help with an experimental national vaccine trial for COVID-19. The study, spearheaded locally by the University of Illinois at Chicago, aims to test at least 1,000 people here. (Chicago Sun-Times)

The US is making progress on a universal flu vaccine. COVID-19 raises the stakes for fighting another infectious viral respiratory disease. (Axios)

Immune cells and noncancerous neurons can drive the growth of brain tumors in neurofibromatosis. Targeting those immune cells can help slow tumor growth. (Futurity)

Certain bacteria in the human gut may be driving a common liver disease. Researchers discovered the strain while studying a Chinese man who became intoxicated—without drinking—after eating high-carbohydrate meals, a condition they call “autobrewery syndrome.” (Science)


News roundup: May 2020

News roundup: May 2020

UChicago immunologist Cathy Nagler is developing immunotherapies for food allergies.
Work in her lab has launched a company focused on resetting the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut to reduce the danger of foods like peanut butter. (Scientific American and Knowable Magazine)

Dodging the coronavirus is still the primary microbial concern of most Americans.
Chicago epidemiologist Emily Landon’s rules of thumb: outside beats inside, mask better than no mask, smaller groups rather than larger. (National Public Radio)

Maintaining a healthy microbiome during COVID-19 may be more important than ever.
Some clinicians in China have suggested that COVID-19 patients with gastrointestinal symptoms might be experiencing worse outcomes from the virus. (The Conversation and Gut-British Medical Journal)

Statins may work to improve the gut microbiome in patients with obesity.
Statins appear to increase gut diversity and reduce inflammation in these individuals. (Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News)

Environmental contaminants strongly influence gut microbiome health.
Scientists at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have linked dozens of chemicals, including bisphenols and phthalates (plastic food packaging); PCBs and perfluorochemicals (nonstick cookware); and pesticides and herbicides, to changes in the gut microbiome and health issues. (Technology Networks)


News roundup: April 2020

News roundup: April 2020

Can plasma from patients who survived coronavirus help treat COVID-19 patients?
Clinical trials at UChicago Medicine are about to find out. (Chicago Tribune)

Did a UChicago researcher discover the first coronavirus?
In 1965, Dorothy Hamre took up the challenge to study students with colds and identified a new kind of virus. (Forbes)

A mutant enzyme that might solve a recycling crisis
Discovered in a compost heap, this enzyme can reduce bottles to chemical building blocks in a matter of hours. (The Guardian)

Do early solid foods predispose babies to be overweight?
Research from Johns Hopkins suggests changes in the microbiome in infancy can affect babies over a lifetime. (Futurity)

The breast is best, perhaps especially for preemies.
A study in newborn mice shows a component of breast milk may help protect premature babies from developing sepsis. (Futurity)


News roundup: March 2020

News roundup: March 2020

Chicago doctor whose blunt speech resonated with millions has another message
In a video PSA, UChicago Associate Professor Emily Landon asks people to stay home and help flatten the curve. (NBC 5 Chicago)

Argonne National Laboratory uses supercomputers to take on coronavirus
Stephen Streiffer, deputy laboratory director for science at Argonne, discusses the use of supercomputers to combat the coronavirus. (CBS Chicago)

Here’s where bacteria live on your tongue cells
UChicago’s Marine Biological Lab scientist Jessica Mark Welch maps how bacteria are grouped together on human tongue cells. (Science News)

A new, shelf-stable film could replace needles and improve global vaccination rates
This film requires no refrigeration and can be given by mouth. (Yahoo News)

How male and female immune responses differ
Sex-specific traits of the immune system, especially in the fat cells of the body, may explain the differences between the genders in their susceptibility to certain diseases. (Futurity)