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Spring 2016
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Inquiry Magazine Archive

  • Spring 2016

    Spring 2016: Premium Blend

    Found in everything from space shuttles to dental fillings, composite materials have thoroughly infiltrated modern society. But their potential is still greatly untapped, offering researchers ample opportunity for discovery.

  • Fall 2015

    Fall 2015: Collision Course

    Within the particle showers created at the Large Hadron Collider, answers to some of the universe’s mysteries are waiting.

  • Spring 2015

    Spring 2015: Almost Human

    Model systems like pigeons can help illuminate our own evolutionary and genomic history.

  • Fall 2014

    Fall 2014: Small Wonder

    UT Arlington's tiny windmills are bringing renewable energy to a whole new scale.

  • Winter 2014

    Winter 2014: Overdue for an Overhaul

    The stability of our highways, pipelines, and even manholes is reaching a breaking point.

  • 2012

    2012: Mystery solved?

    Scientists believe they have discovered a subatomic particle that is crucial to understanding the universe.

  • 2011

    2011: Boosting brain power

    UT Arlington researchers unlock clues to the human body’s most mysterious and complex organ.

  • 2010

    2010: Powered by genetics

    UT Arlington researchers probe the hidden world of microbes in search of renewable energy sources.

  • 2009

    2009: Winning the battle against pain

    Wounded soldiers are benefiting from Robert Gatchel’s program that combines physical rehabilitation with treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

  • 2009

    2007: Sensing a solution

    Tiny sensors implanted in the body show promise in combating acid reflux disease, pain and other health problems.

  • 2006

    2006:Semiconductors: The next generation

    Nanotechnology researchers pursue hybrid silicon chips with life-saving potential.

  • 2005

    2005: Imaging is everything

    Biomedical engineers combat diseases with procedures that are painless to patients.

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Wasted

Star Power

Uncovering new clues about the immune systems of starfish 

Star Fish

It took studying sea stars as they were dying for UTA graduate student Lauren Fuess to better understand how they live.

Fuess, a Ph.D. candidate in quantitative biology, is examining wasting disease in sea stars, a condition that has caused nearly 90 percent mortality in areas off the West Coast over the last two years. This mass death—the largest die-off of sea stars ever recorded—has proven to be a devastating loss for the ecosystem.

"The sea stars protect the rocky shores, keeping them from becoming dominated by mussels," Fuess says. "When you remove the sea stars, you see dramatic declines of other species, so basically you go from a diverse ecosystem to a mussel-coated beach."

While studying the transcriptomes—molecules expressed from genes—of sea stars with wasting disease during a course at the University of Washington last year, Fuess and her fellow graduate students found that the animal has an immune response characterized by different types of immunities and containing multiple aspects of the toll-signaling pathway. (The latter is how a cell recognizes a pathogen, then changes its genes to defend itself against it.)

Sea Star Research Video

Watch the video: Sea Star Research

The researchers also discovered several changes in the animal's extra-cellular matrix and collagen gene.

"Genes that degrade collagen, which is a component of a sea star's structure, were increasing in the stars we studied," Fuess explains. "So, you have more degradation of that essential collagen and more breakdown of the matrix that is used for the star's movement and rigidity. We also saw changes in nervous genes that might be contributing to the twisting of the arms seen in infected sea stars."

Laura Mydlarz, UTA associate professor and director of the lab where Fuess works, says they are studying whether temperature shifts due to climate change or pollution have caused the stars to be more vulnerable to diseases.

"Lauren's research here is a great example of student excellence in this area."

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