Salk News

Tiny microscopes reveal hidden role of nervous system cells

LA JOLLA—A microscope about the size of a penny is giving scientists a new window into the everyday activity of cells within the spinal cord. The innovative technology revealed that astrocytes—cells in the nervous system that do not conduct electrical signals and were traditionally viewed as merely supportive—unexpectedly react to intense sensation.

Tamping down neurons’ energy use could treat neurodegeneration

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute scientists showed how an FDA-approved drug boosts the health of brain cells by limiting their energy use. Like removing unnecessary lighting from a financially strapped household to save on electricity bills, the drug—called rapamycin—prolongs the survival of diseased neurons by forcing them to reduce protein production to conserve cellular energy.

Salk scientists uncover how a cell’s “fuel gauge” promotes healthy development

LA JOLLA—(April 25, 2016) Salk scientists have revealed how a cellular “fuel gauge” responsible for monitoring and managing cells’ energy processes also has an unexpected role in development. This critical link could help researchers better understand cancer and diabetes pathways.

Salk recruits award-winning neurobiologist Eiman Azim

LA JOLLA—Broadening its expertise in neuroscience, the Salk Institute is pleased to announce the appointment of Eiman Azim as an assistant professor in the Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory. He will join the Institute in May.

Salk Institute medals awarded to pioneering neuroscience and cancer researchers

LA JOLLA-The Salk Institute awarded two American scientists with its prestigious Medal for Research Excellence, a distinction that has only been bestowed twice before in the Institute’s 55-year history. The honorees, who received their awards April 13, independently addressed the Salk community in presentations prior to an awards reception.

Improved brain mapping tool 20 times more powerful than previous version

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute scientists have developed a new reagent to map the brain’s complex network of connections that is 20 times more efficient than their previous version. This tool improves upon a technique called rabies virus tracing, which was originally developed in the Callaway lab at Salk and is commonly used to map neural connections.

Salk scientists find “secret sauce” for personalized, functional insulin-producing cells

LA JOLLA—Salk scientists have solved a longstanding problem in the effort to create replacement cells for diabetic patients. The team uncovered a hidden energy switch that, when flipped, powers up pancreatic cells to respond to glucose, a step that eluded previous research. The result is the production of hundreds of millions of lab-produced human beta cells—able to relieve diabetes in mice.

Brain guardians remove dying neurons

LA JOLLA—By adolescence, your brain already contains most of the neurons that you’ll have for the rest of your life. But a few regions continue to grow new nerve cells—and require the services of cellular sentinels, specialized immune cells that keep the brain safe by getting rid of dead or dysfunctional cells.

TSRI, Salk scientists discover ‘outlier’ enzymes that could offer new targets to treat diabetes, inflammation

LA JOLLA—A team led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and the Salk Institute for Biological Studies has discovered two enzymes that appear to play a role in metabolism and inflammation—and might someday be targeted with drugs to treat type 2 diabetes and inflammatory disorders.

Salk professor Rusty Gage elected to the National Academy of Sciences Governing Council

LA JOLLA—Distinguished Salk Institute Professor Rusty Gage is one of four new members to be elected to the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Governing Council. Gage is a professor in Salk’s Laboratory of Genetics and holds the Vi and John Adler Chair for Research on Age-Related Neurodegenerative Disease.

The Salk Institute to open its doors on April 16th for the 4th annual Explore Salk, a free community open house

The Salk Institute will open its doors to the public Saturday, April 16 for the fourth annual Explore Salk, the Institute’s once-a-year community open house. In addition to guided lab tours and science booths, this year’s event features a talk by Salk’s new president, Nobel laureate Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn, titled “Don’t Cell Yourself Short.”

Protein structure illuminates how viruses take over cells

LA JOLLA—Using cutting-edge imaging technology, Salk Institute and Harvard Medical School researchers have determined the structure of a protein complex that lets viruses similar to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) establish permanent infections within their hosts.

Same gene dictates size of two sensory brain areas

LA JOLLA—When you stare in puzzlement at an optical illusion, two distinct parts of the neocortex in your brain are hard at work: the primary visual cortex is receiving information on what your eyes see, and the surrounding higher order visual areas are trying to interpret that tricky amalgam of information. These two areas, though, are linked in more ways than just function—the same gene controls the size of each area, Salk researchers led by Dennis O’Leary have now discovered.

Three Salk scientists make Thomson Reuters’ list of “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds”

Salk Institute scientists Joanne Chory, Joseph Ecker and Rusty Gage have been named to the 2015 list of “The World’s Most Influential Scientific Minds” by Thomson Reuters.

Memory capacity of brain is 10 times more than previously thought

LA JOLLA—Salk researchers and collaborators have achieved critical insight into the size of neural connections, putting the memory capacity of the brain far higher than common estimates. The new work also answers a longstanding question as to how the brain is so energy efficient and could help engineers build computers that are incredibly powerful but also conserve energy.

Grafted plants’ genomes can communicate with each other

LA JOLLA—Agricultural grafting dates back nearly 3,000 years. By trial and error, people from ancient China to ancient Greece realized that joining a cut branch from one plant onto the stalk of another could improve the quality of crops.

How the cell’s power station survives attacks

LA JOLLA—Mitochondria, the power generators in our cells, are essential for life. When they are under attack—from poisons, environmental stress or genetic mutations—cells wrench these power stations apart, strip out the damaged pieces and reassemble them into usable mitochondria.

Autism-linked protein lays groundwork for healthy brain

LA JOLLA—A gene linked to mental disorders helps lays the foundation for a crucial brain structure during prenatal development, according to Salk Institute research published January 14, 2016 in Cell Reports.

Salk elects three leaders in biotech and philanthropy

LA JOLLA-On December 4, the Salk Institute Board of Trustees unanimously voted to elect three new trustees to the board: International business executive Markus Reinhard, philanthropist Haeyoung Kong Tang and chemist Terry Rosen.

Scientists find key driver for treatment of deadly brain cancer

LA JOLLA—Glioblastoma multiforme is a particularly deadly cancer. A person diagnosed with this type of brain tumor typically survives 15 months, if given the best care. The late Senator Ted Kennedy succumbed to this disease in just over a year.

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