"Old age," the actor and entertainer Maurice Chevalier is reported to have said, "isn't so bad when you consider the alternative." And Chevalier, who continued performing until two years before his death at 83, presumably knew a thing or two about aging with grace and good health.
But millions of people stricken with the diseases of old age— Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, cancer, cardiovascular disease and more—are not as lucky. For them, growing older can be fraught with physical and cognitive difficulties that undermine their quality of life. Earlier this year, a government report projected that 13.8 million Americans will develop Alzheimer's disease by 2050, with the associated costs of care reaching $1.1 trillion. And those are the figures for just one condition! Clearly it's critical for society that we develop new interventions for age-related diseases that allow people to remain healthy and vigorous for as long as possible.
This issue of Inside Salk celebrates Salk research into healthy aging. We are fortunate to have many scientists at the Institute who are investigating the basic mechanisms behind aging, making important discoveries that are advancing our understanding of growing older. As you probably know, healthy aging is one of the four scientific initiatives underlying the Campaign for Salk, and I think it's safe to say that it's one in which everyone has a stake. I hope you'll enjoy reading about the work of Martin Hetzer, Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte and Jan Karlseder in our cover story and gain a new appreciation for what the campaign means for cutting-edge Salk research.
In fact, it's been a remarkable several months at the Institute, with many of our researchers publishing significant papers in major journals. We are thrilled to report on some of the highlights in the following pages. Satchin Panda, for instance, has discovered a new molecule with implications for migraines. Ed Callaway has produced novel insights into how specific brain regions interconnect, and Sreekanth Chalasani has discovered a previously unknown flexibility in neural circuitry and its influence on behaviors in model organisms. Also in neuroscience, Joseph Ecker and Terrence Sejnowski have helped elucidate how information in the genomes of cells in the brain is controlled from fetal development to adulthood, and Tatyana Sharpee and John Reynolds have demonstrated the complexities of decoding images made of both simple and intricate elements. In cell biology, John Young and Greg Lemke have discovered a new mechanism that may prove effective at clearing viruses from cells, and Lei Wang has developed a new tool for protein engineering.
Your friendship and especially your support have been instrumental in these breakthroughs, and as you peruse the magazine, I hope you'll think about what the findings of our scientists may ultimately mean to all of us and how you have helped bring them about. On behalf of everyone at the Institute, thank you for being such an important part of the Salk community.