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Salkexcellerators hear from new Salk faculty member, Alan Saghatelian

Alan Saghatelian

A private reception for the San Diego Salkexcellerators was held on October 22, 2014 at the Salk Institute. The event featured a presentation by one of the Institute’s newest faculty members, Alan Saghatelian, professor in the Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology. His lab focuses on the biology of metabolites and peptides, two classes of molecules that are extremely important in disease–particularly diabetes, cancer and autoimmune disease.

From left: Lorena Monzon and Maggie Curiel

Saghatelian shared with the group a discovery made by his team and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in Boston, which was detailed in the journal Cell in October. Through their collaboration, the researchers discovered a new class of molecules produced in human and mouse fat that protects against diabetes. Scientists found that giving this new lipid, called fatty acid hydroxy fatty acids (FAHFAs), to mice with the equivalent of type 2 diabetes lowered their elevated blood sugar. FAHFAs were also lower in humans with early stages of diabetes and higher in mice resistant to diabetes.

"These lipids are amazing," says Saghatelian. "Because they can also reduce inflammation, this suggests that we might discover therapeutic opportunities for these molecules in inflammatory diseases, such as Crohn's disease and rheumatoid arthritis, as well as diabetes."

Laura and Brian Tauber

New mass spectrometry techniques developed by Saghatelian enabled him and collaborators to uncover the FAHFAs. Saghatelian plans to integrate these and other mass spectrometry methods through cross-disciplinary collaborations to discover new therapies for many diseases. For more information on the Salkexcellerators program, visit www.salk.edu/salkexcellerators or contact Megan Shockro at mshockro@salk.edu or (858) 453-4100 x1405.