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Salk News


Nine Salk professors named among best and most highly cited researchers in the world

LA JOLLA—Salk Professors Joseph Ecker, Ronald Evans, Rusty Gage, Christian Metallo, Satchidananda Panda, Reuben Shaw, and Kay Tye have been named to the Highly Cited Researchers list by Clarivate. This year’s list includes 6,938 researchers from 69 countries and identifies researchers who demonstrate “significant influence in their chosen field or fields through the publication of multiple highly cited papers.” Ecker and Gage have been named to this list every year since 2014, when the regular annual rankings began. This is Tye’s sixth, Shaw’s fourth, and Panda’s second time receiving the designation. Joseph Nery, a research assistant II in the Ecker lab, was also included on the list.


Luzilda Arciniega joins Salk as director of Diversity Strategies & Implementation

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has named Luzilda “Lucy” Arciniega director of Diversity Strategies & Implementation, as the Institute continues to expand its focus on efforts that support recruitment, retention, leadership, and cultural connectivity throughout its vibrant campus.


Growing motor neurons guided by “love-hate relationship” with blood vessels

LA JOLLA—When neurons involved in movement—called motor neurons—form, they must build connections that reach from the brain, brainstem, or spinal cord all the way to the head, arms, or the tips of the toes. How neurons navigate these systems and “decide” where and how to grow has largely been a mystery.


In Memorium: Georg Heinrich “Heini” Thyssen-Bornemisza

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute recently lost a dear friend and former Trustee when Georg Heinrich “Heini” Thyssen died on September 30, 2022.


Salk scientists discover anti-inflammatory molecules that decline in the aging brain

LA JOLLA—Aging involves complicated plot twists and a large cast of characters: inflammation, stress, metabolism changes, and many others. Now, a team of Salk Institute and UC San Diego scientists reveal another factor implicated in the aging process—a class of lipids called SGDGs (3-sulfogalactosyl diacylglycerols) that decline in the brain with age and may have anti-inflammatory effects.


Salk Institute’s Charles F. Stevens, distinguished professor emeritus, dies at 88

LA JOLLA—Charles F. “Chuck” Stevens, distinguished professor emeritus in Salk’s Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory, died peacefully on October 21, 2022, at his home in San Diego. He was 88.


Salk Institute’s Christina Towers recognized for scientific achievements and dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute Assistant Professor Christina Towers has received a $1.15 million Science Diversity Leadership Award from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, in partnership with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The award recognizes outstanding early- to mid-career researchers who have made significant research contributions to the biomedical sciences, show promise for continuing scientific achievement, and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in their scientific fields.


Trailblazing immunologist joins Salk faculty to study mother-baby immunity during pregnancy and breastfeeding

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute welcomes Assistant Professor Deepshika Ramanan, an innovative researcher studying how the maternal immune system changes during pregnancy and breastfeeding and affects immunity and inflammation in babies across multiple generations. Ramanan will join Salk’s NOMIS Center for Immunobiology and Microbial Pathogenesis.


Three Salk scientists among 2022 Curebound Discovery Grant winners

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute’s American Cancer Society Professor Tony Hunter, Professor Reuben Shaw, and Assistant Professor Graham McVicker are among 12 inaugural 2022 Discovery Grant winners. The awards, which total $3 million, were launched this year by Curebound, a philanthropic organization dedicated to funding collaborative cancer research that has the potential to reach the clinic.


San Diego Nathan Shock Center leverages long-running human study to enable cellular research on diversity of aging

LA JOLLA—The San Diego Nathan Shock Center of Excellence in the Basic Biology of Aging, a collaboration between the Salk Institute, UC San Diego, and Sanford Burnham Prebys, received new funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to enroll participants from the Rancho Bernardo Study of Healthy Aging into their own clinical cohort to study differences in how individuals age. Initiated 50 years ago by the late UC San Diego Distinguished Professor Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, the Rancho Bernardo Study is one of the longest, continuously NIH-funded studies in existence.


Salk Institute Professor Geoffrey Wahl receives 2022 Susan G. Komen® Brinker Award

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute Professor Geoffrey Wahl has received the 2022 Brinker Award for Scientific Distinction in Basic Science from Susan G. Komen®, the world’s leading breast cancer organization. According to the foundation, the award recognizes leading scientists who have made the most significant advances in breast cancer research and medicine. Wahl was honored for his significant contributions to the field of cancer genetics, including the mechanisms of drug resistance and genome stability. He will present a keynote lecture at the 45th annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium in early December 2022.


Time-restricted eating improves health of firefighters

LA JOLLA—Firefighters are the heroes of our society, protecting us around the clock. But those 24-hour shifts are hard on the body and increase the risk of cardiometabolic diseases, such as heart disease and diabetes, as well as cancer. In collaboration with the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department, scientists from the Salk Institute and UC San Diego Health conducted a clinical trial and found that time-restricted eating improved measures of health and wellbeing in firefighters. The lifestyle intervention only required the firefighters to eat during a 10-hour window and did not involve skipping meals.


Salk Institute and Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) team up to study museum visitor behavior

LA JOLLA—Clay vessels of innumerable shapes and sizes come to life as they illuminate a rich history of symbolic meanings and identity. Some museum visitors may lean in to get a better view, while others converse with their friends over the rich hues. Exhibition designers have long wondered how the human brain senses, perceives, and learns in the rich environment of a museum gallery.


Salk Institute to lead $126 million effort to map the aging human brain

LA JOLLA—With a five-year, $126 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), a team led by Salk Institute scientists has launched a new Center for Multiomic Human Brain Cell Atlas. Part of the NIH’s Brain Research Through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies® (BRAIN) Initiative, the project aims to describe the cells that make up the human brain in unprecedented molecular detail, classify brain cells into more precise subtypes, and pinpoint the location of each cell in the brain. What’s more, the team will track how these features change from early to late life.


Aggression de-escalation gene identified in fruit flies

LA JOLLA—The brain mechanisms that cause aggressive behavior have been well studied. Far less understood are the processes that tell the body when it’s time to stop fighting. Now, a new study by Salk scientists identifies a gene and a group of cells in the brain that play a critical role in suppressing aggression in fruit flies.


Beyond neurons: How cells called astrocytes contribute to brain disorders

LA JOLLA—Neurons often get most of the credit for keeping our brains sharp and functioning—as well as most of the blame when it comes to brain diseases. But star-shaped cells called astrocytes, another abundant cell in the human brain, may bear the brunt of the responsibility for exacerbating the symptoms of some neurodevelopmental disorders. Salk Institute scientists have now identified a molecule produced by astrocytes that interferes with normal neuron development in Rett, fragile X and Down syndromes.


How light and temperature work together to affect plant growth

LA JOLLA—Plants lengthen and bend to secure access to sunlight. Despite observing this phenomenon for centuries, scientists do not fully understand it. Now, Salk scientists have discovered that two plant factors—the protein PIF7 and the growth hormone auxin—are the triggers that accelerate growth when plants are shaded by canopy and exposed to warm temperatures at the same time.


How the brain gathers threat cues and turns them into fear

LA JOLLA—Salk scientists have uncovered a molecular pathway that distills threatening sights, sounds and smells into a single message: Be afraid. A molecule called CGRP enables neurons in two separate areas of the brain to bundle threatening sensory cues into a unified signal, tag it as negative and convey it to the amygdala, which translates the signal into fear.


New target identified for treatment of premature aging disease

LA JOLLA—A stretch of DNA that hops around the human genome plays a role in premature aging disorders, scientists at the Salk Institute and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) in Saudi Arabia have discovered. In people with early aging, or progeria, RNA encoded by this mobile DNA builds up inside cells. What’s more, the scientists found that blocking this RNA reverses the disease in mice.


Discovery advances the potential of gene therapy to restore hearing loss

LA JOLLA—Scientists from the Salk Institute and the University of Sheffield co-led a study that shows promise for the development of gene therapies to repair hearing loss. In developed countries, roughly 80 percent of deafness cases that occur before a child learns to speak are due to genetic factors. One of these genetic components leads to the absence of the protein EPS8, which coincides with improper development of sensory hair cells in the inner ear. These cells normally have long hair-like structures, called stereocilia, that transduce sound into electrical signals that can be perceived by the brain. In the absence of EPS8, the stereocilia are too short to function, leading to deafness.