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Missing molecule in chemical production line discovered

LA JOLLA, CA—It takes dozens of chemical reactions for a cell to make isoprenoids, a diverse class of molecules found in every type of living organism. Cholesterol, for example, an important component of the membranes of cells, is a large isoprenoid chemical. The molecule that gives oranges their citrusy smell and taste is an isoprenoid, as is the natural antimalarial drug artemisinin.

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Salk Institute Board of Trustees elects two visionary business leaders

LA JOLLA, CA—The Salk Institute is pleased to announce that Alan D. Gold and David F. Hale have been elected to its Board of Trustees.

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Salk scientists crack riddle of important drug target

LA JOLLA, CA—A new approach to mapping how proteins interact with each other, developed at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies, could aid in the design of new drugs for diseases such as diabetes and osteoporosis. By reengineering proteins using artificial amino acids, the Salk scientists determine the detailed molecular structure of a cellular switch and its ligand, the molecule that turns it on. The switch—corticotrophin releasing factor type 1 (CRF1R)—belongs to a class of cellular receptors whose structures are notoriously hard to determine. These receptors regulate processes throughout the body and are involved in many diseases.

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Study connects dots between genes and human behavior

LA JOLLA, CA—Establishing links between genes, the brain and human behavior is a central issue in cognitive neuroscience research, but studying how genes influence cognitive abilities and behavior as the brain develops from childhood to adulthood has proven difficult.

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Salk scientists for the first time generate "mini-kidney" structures from human stem cells

LA JOLLA, CA—Diseases affecting the kidneys represent a major and unsolved health issue worldwide. The kidneys rarely recover function once they are damaged by disease, highlighting the urgent need for better knowledge of kidney development and physiology.

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Study finds a patchwork of genetic variation in the brain

LA JOLLA, CA—It was once thought that each cell in a person's body possesses the same DNA code and that the particular way the genome is read imparts cell function and defines the individual. For many cell types in our bodies, however, that is an oversimplification. Studies of neuronal genomes published in the past decade have turned up extra or missing chromosomes, or pieces of DNA that can copy and paste themselves throughout the genomes.

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Induced pluripotent stem cells reveal differences between humans and great apes

LA JOLLA, CA—Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have, for the first time, taken chimpanzee and bonobo skin cells and turned them into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), a type of cell that has the ability to form any other cell or tissue in the body.

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Salk scientists expand the genetic code of mammals to control protein activity in neurons with light

LA JOLLA, CA—With the flick of a light switch, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies can change the shape of a protein in the brain of a mouse, turning on the protein at the precise moment they want. This allows the scientists to observe the exact effect of the protein's activation. The new method, described in the Oct. 16, 2013, issue of the journal Neuron, relies on specially engineered amino acids—the molecules that make up proteins—and light from an LED. Now that it has been shown to work, the technique can be adapted to give researchers control of a wide variety of other proteins in the brain to study their functions.

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Innovative research earns Salk scientist EUREKA award

LA JOLLA, CA—The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has selected Axel Nimmerjahn for a highly competitive EUREKA (Exceptional Unconventional Research Enabling Knowledge Acceleration) grant. Nimmerjahn is an Assistant Professor in the Waitt Advanced Biophotonics Center and holds the Richard Allan Barry Developmental Chair. The award, in the amount of $1.38M over four years, will support Nimmerjahn's goal of better understanding the relationship between spinal cord physiology and brain activity and behavior. Data from this research should foster development of new treatment and rehabilitation strategies for spinal cord injury, tumors, infections, and neurodegenerative diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and spinal muscular dystrophy.

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Salk Institute elects Elizabeth Keadle to its Board of Trustees

LA JOLLA, CA—The Board of Trustees of the Salk Institute is pleased to announce the election of Elizabeth Keadle as its newest member.

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