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Genetics

How genetic diversity could avoid threat of deadly disease in endangered deer

URBANA, Ill. – Chronic wasting disease, the prion disease affecting white-tailed deer and other cervids, is spreading. With documented cases in 29 U.S. states, two Canadian provinces, three Scandinavian countries, and South Korea, free-ranging and captive cervids are under threat. Efforts to conserve endangered deer against this backdrop are understandably fraught.

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What keeps plant roots growing toward gravity? Study identifies four genes

URBANA, Ill. – What happens belowground in a corn field is easy to overlook, but corn root architecture can play an important role in water and nutrient acquisition, affecting drought tolerance, water use efficiency, and sustainability. If breeders could encourage corn roots to grow down at a steeper angle, the crop could potentially access important resources deeper in the soil.

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Illinois project takes on quantitative disease resistance in corn

URBANA, Ill. – Like the virus that causes COVID-19, pathogens that attack crops change constantly to evade host immunity, or disease resistance in plant parlance. Sometimes, a single gene makes the difference between a resistant crop and one that’s susceptible. In those cases, the gene typically blocks the pathogen for a while, until the microbe makes a change. 

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Illinois researchers find exotic sources of resistance to tar spot in corn

URBANA, Ill. – When tar spot – a fungal disease of corn capable of causing significant yield loss – popped out of nowhere in 2015, Midwestern corn growers were left scrambling to manage the outbreak with few effective tools. The industry has since made some progress toward management with fungicides, but many researchers agree resistance is the path forward for living with tar spot.

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Team uses MRI to image epigenetics in the brain

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — A multidisciplinary team at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign has devised a new approach to 3D imaging that captures DNA methylation, a key epigenetic change associated with learning in the brain. The scientists say their proof-of-concept study in pigs will easily translate to humans, as the new method relies on standard MRI technology and biological markers already in use in human medicine.

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Gene important in soybean protein content found after 30-year search

URBANA, Ill. – Soybeans outmatch all other legumes as the protein powerhouses of the plant kingdom, providing a key protein source for humans and livestock around the world. And now, after 30 years, University of Illinois scientists have identified the gene with the largest impact on seed protein in soybean.

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Protein region on COVID’s viral spike senses temperature, drives seasonal mutation patterns

URBANA, Ill. – Not to pile on, but winter is coming and the COVID-19 pandemic is about to get worse. Not necessarily because of omicron – scientists are still working that one out – but because there’s more evidence than ever that COVID-19 is a seasonal disease.

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Endangered deer's prion gene could protect it from chronic wasting disease

URBANA, Ill. – China’s Père David’s deer was nearly gone in the late 1800s. Just 18 deer – the very last of their kind – were brought into captivity after the rest had been hunted to extinction. When 11 of the deer reproduced, the species had a chance. Today, after centuries of reintroductions and breeding under human care, the population sits at around 3,000.

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Machine learning reveals genes for nitrogen use efficiency in corn

URBANA, Ill. – Machine learning can pinpoint genes of importance that help crops grow with less fertilizer, according to a new study published in Nature Communications.

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Dynamic photosynthesis model simulates 10-20 percent yield increase

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. —  Plants use sunlight to generate their food through photosynthesis. When the sun rises each morning, plants must prepare themselves to receive nutrients from the sunlight, which takes time. Decreasing the prep time in plants could hold the key to improving yields in many crop varieties.

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