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Salk's New York supporters gather to learn more about the latest discoveries in aging

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In early November, Salk supporters in the New York area gathered to hear Martin Hetzer, professor and holder of Salk’s Jesse and Caryl Philips Foundation Chair. Hetzer, who is director of the Salk Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center and co-director of the Glenn Center for Aging Research, gave a presentation titled “What Makes the Brain Age?”

Hetzer and his staff in the Molecular and Cell Biology Laboratory are working to unravel the mysteries of aging and related diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. To do this, they home in on the activity of cells and proteins, particularly on structures that decode the genome. “Our laboratory is focusing on deciphering the structural and molecular organization of the nucleus and the nuclear genome under various developmental and pathological conditions,” says Hetzer.

One focus of Hetzer’s work is the cell nucleus, where channels and structures can go awry and cause problems in genetic coding, which then lead to disease. For example, he is investigating whether the deterioration of a structure called the nuclear pore complex might initiate or contribute to the onset of certain neurodegenerative diseases, like Parkinson’s. Once scientists have a complete understanding of how some people maintain normal function and ward off disease, Hetzer hopes to bolster genetic and epigenetic mechanisms that protect people as they age.

Salk representatives visit with President’s Club, Salkexcellerators, alumni and Friends of Salk in New York City each spring and fall. For more information on Salk programs in Manhattan, please contact Megan Shockro at or (858) 453-4100 x1405.