A $5.5 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust has established the Salk Center for Nutritional Genomics, a multi-lab endeavor that takes a molecular approach to understanding of how nutrients affect health.
Capitalizing on the Salk's strength in collaborative research, the new center draws expertise from leading laboratories at the Institute to deepen its diabetes research with the intent to unravel the mechanisms that modulate the body's energy balance and the factors that set the stage for metabolic disease.
"Given the fact that metabolism has clearly established itself as a common denominator in many research fields, I am very pleased that our scientists will have the opportunity to collaborate further and delve even deeper into this vitally important area of biological science," said Salk President William R. Brody.
"The Salk Center for Nutritional Genomics will enable our investigators to develop new approaches to understand the metabolic changes associated with Type I and Type II diabetes, cancer and aging," he said. "It will also help accelerate the development of new therapies and disease-prevention strategies."
Received in April, the grant will fund a Metabolic Core Facility, an interdisciplinary Fellows Program and breakthrough technologies, including the study of gene networks based on massive parallel sequencing of millions of genomic DNA fragments, which allow scientists to investigate a huge number of variables simultaneously and dramatically increase the speed and effectiveness of their work.
Adult obesity, which has increased 75 percent since 1980 in the U.S., is associated with a slew of metabolic disorders, including glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, high cholesterol and high blood pressure -- all of which are well-established risk factors for cardiovascular disease and Type II diabetes.
A major strength of the Salk Institute is its approach to fundamental aspects of medical physiology and endocrinology from the perspective of the genome. Its scientists look at metabolic control as a product of the regulated activity of metabolic genes, which undergo dramatic shifts, not only in response to fasting or feeding, but also in aging and disease.
"The study of metabolic control will provide fundamental answers that have profound implications for human disease and its treatment," said Marc Montminy, professor in the Clayton Foundation Laboratories for Peptide Biology at Salk. "Our scientists look at the genomics of metabolic control as the hub of a wheel whose individual spokes lead out to new insights into other disorders such as diabetes, cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, and aging."