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San Diego Salkexcellerators spring into science


From left: Melanie Casey, Holger Mueller, Heather Mueller, Kristin Gibson-Trikas and George Trikas.

Members of the San Diego Salkexcellerators took part in two special functions hosted at the Salk Institute, where they had the opportunity to witness the leading-edge science supported by their charitable donations.

On April 18, guests enjoyed an exclusive behind-the-scenes lab tour with Sreekanth Chalasani, an assistant professor in the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory. Chalasani, whose research applies a combination of genetics, functional imaging and behavioral analysis to study how the tiny C. elegans worm's nervous system responds to changes in the environment, shared his latest findings in behavioral neuroscience.

The following month, on May 2, attendees gathered for a private reception catered by Pamplemousse Grille before adjourning to the Trustees Room to listen to a presentation titled "Going Nuclear on Aging," given by faculty members Jan Karlseder and Martin Hetzer, both professors in Salk's Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory.

Karlseder, whose research focuses on understanding the functions of mammalian telomeres, spoke on "The Ends of Aging," explaining how telomeres—the protein-DNA complexes at the ends of linear chromosomes—are crucial in DNA replication, tumor suppression and aging. Every time a primary human cell divides, its telomeres get shorter, until critically short telomeres lead to terminal cell cycle arrest. Karlseder believes that a better understanding of this process will eventually allow scientists to influence the aging process and, as a result, restrict cancer cell growth.

Hetzer followed with a talk titled "You're Only as Old as Your Proteins," about his discovery that certain proteins, called extremely long-lived proteins (ELLPs), found in neurons and other non-dividing cells, have a remarkably long lifespan. His lab found that while most proteins turn over in two days or less, ELLPs discovered in the rat brain were as old as the organism, a finding that was recently published in Science. These discoveries may enhance understanding of the molecular origins of aging and such neurodegenerative disorders as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

Salkexcellerators are the next generation of business professionals, entrepreneurs, and volunteers committed to supporting the groundbreaking research conducted at the Salk Institute. Join our community of philanthropists at special events year round that include opportunities to engage with Salk's renowned scientists.

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