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Salk News


Organoids reveal how a deadly brain cancer grows

LA JOLLA—Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is an incredibly deadly brain cancer and presents a serious black box challenge. It’s virtually impossible to observe how these tumors operate in their natural environment and animal models don’t always provide good answers.


Salk Institute launches Conquering Cancer Initiative

LA JOLLA—On Friday, April 20, 2018, the Salk Institute launched a new initiative called Conquering Cancer, to harness specific and emerging scientific strategies to tackle the five deadliest cancers: pancreatic, ovarian, lung, brain (glioblastoma) and triple-negative breast.


Three Salk faculty honored with endowed chairs

LA JOLLA—Salk scientists Katherine Jones, Susan Kaech and Gerald Shadel each have been recognized for their contributions and dedication to advancing science through research by being named to endowed chairs at the Institute.


Grafted brain organoids provide insight into neurological disorders

LA JOLLA—Many neurological disorders—Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, even depression—have lagged behind in new therapies. Because the brain is so complex, it can be difficult to discover new drugs and even when a drug is promising in animal models, it often doesn’t work for humans.


Prominent academics, including Salk’s Thomas Albright, call for more science in forensic science

LA JOLLA—With forensic science facing mounting scrutiny as it plays an increasingly prominent role in the administration of justice, six scientists who recently served on the National Commission on Forensic Science are calling on the scientific community at large to advocate for increased research and financial support of forensic science as well as the introduction of empirical testing requirements to ensure the validity of outcomes. Their call to action appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) the week of April 9, 2018.


Tumor suppressor protein targets liver cancer

LA JOLLA—Salk Institute scientists, together with researchers from Switzerland’s University of Basel and University Hospital Basel, discovered a protein called LHPP that acts as a molecular switch to turn off the uncontrolled growth of cells in liver cancer. The tumor suppressor, which could be useful as a biomarker to help diagnose and monitor treatment for liver cancer, could also be relevant for other cancer types. The work appeared in print in the journal Nature on March 29, 2018, and adds to the growing body of knowledge about cellular processes that either promote or prevent cancer.


Tony Hunter receives Pezcoller Foundation–AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research

LA JOLLA—Professor Tony Hunter, who holds an American Cancer Society Professorship at the Salk Institute, has received the 2018 Pezcoller–AACR International Award for Extraordinary Achievement in Cancer Research, one of the most prestigious honors in the field of cancer research. The prize recognizes a scientist of international renown who has made a major scientific discovery in basic cancer research or who has made significant contributions to translational cancer research.


Salk promotes Dmitry Lyumkis to assistant professor

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has promoted structural biologist Dmitry Lyumkis to the rank of assistant professor for his significant early contributions to the up-and-coming field of electron microscopy known as cryo-EM. The promotion was based on recommendations by Salk faculty and nonresident fellows, and approved by Interim President Rusty Gage and the Institute’s Board of Trustees.


Salk promotes Xin Jin to associate professor

LA JOLLA—The Salk Institute has promoted Xin Jin, a member of the Institute’s world-renowned neuroscience faculty, to the rank of associate professor, as his research continues to provide significant insights into diseases such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s. The promotion was based on recommendations by Salk faculty and nonresident fellows, and approved by Interim President Rusty Gage and the Institute’s Board of Trustees.


Early life experiences influence DNA in the adult brain

LA JOLLA—In the perennial question of nature versus nurture, a new study suggests an intriguing connection between the two. Salk Institute scientists report in the journal Science that the type of mothering a female mouse provides her pups actually changes their DNA. The work lends support to studies about how childhood environments affect brain development in humans and could provide insights into neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia.


Decoding the chemistry of fear

LA JOLLA—Ask a dozen people about their greatest fears, and you’ll likely get a dozen different responses. That, along with the complexity of the human brain, makes fear—and its close cousin, anxiety—difficult to study. For this reason, clinical anti-anxiety medicines have mixed results, even though they are broadly prescribed. In fact, one in six Americans takes a psychiatric drug.


CRISPR genetic editing takes another big step forward, targeting RNA

LA JOLLA—Most people have heard of the CRISPR/Cas9 gene-editing technology, which acts as targeted molecular scissors to cut and replace disease-causing genes with healthy ones. But DNA is only part of the story; many genetic diseases are caused by problems with RNA, a working copy of DNA that is translated into proteins.


Making new memories is a balancing act

LA JOLLA—Those of us who can’t resist tourist tchotchkes are big fans of suitcases with an expandable compartment. Now, it turns out the brain’s capacity for storing new memories is expandable, too, with limitations.


Molecule that gives energy-burning brown fat its identity could lead to drugs for obesity

LA JOLLA—While most fat cells in the human body store energy, everyone has a small subset of brown fat cells that do the opposite—burn energy and generate heat. Now, Salk researchers have discovered how the molecule ERRγ gives this “healthier” brown fat its energy-expending identity, making those cells ready to warm you up when you step into the cold, and potentially offering a new therapeutic target for diseases related to obesity. The paper appears in Cell Reports on March 13, 2018.


Salk Institute receives Charity Navigator’s highest rating for seventh time

LA JOLLA—For the seventh consecutive time, the Salk Institute’s strong financial health and continuing commitment to accountability and transparency have earned a coveted 4-star (out of 4 stars) rating from Charity Navigator, America’s largest independent charity and nonprofit evaluator. Receiving the highest ranking for seven consecutive ratings puts Salk in a distinguished class of nonprofits—only four percent of nonprofits evaluated achieve that status, indicating that the Salk Institute outperforms most other charities in America in this regard.


Salk scientists find power switch for muscles

LA JOLLA—If you’ve ever wondered how strenuous exercise translates into better endurance, researchers at the Salk Institute may have your answer. In a study published in the journal Cell Reports on March 6, 2018, scientists in Ronald Evans’ lab have shown that the protein ERRγ (ERR gamma) helps deliver many of the benefits associated with endurance exercise.


How the brain tells our limbs apart

LA JOLLA—Legs and arms perform very different functions. Our legs are responsible primarily for repetitive locomotion, like walking and running. Our arms and hands, by contrast, must be able to execute many highly specialized jobs—picking up a pen and writing, holding a fork, or playing the violin, just to name three.


Salk and UC San Diego scientists receive $1.5 million to study firefighter health

LA JOLLA—We count on firefighters to protect us in life-threatening situations. So it’s in everyone’s best interest for them to be healthy and fit. Salk Institute and University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers have been awarded a $1.5 million grant by the Department of Homeland Security for a three-year study to see whether restricting food intake to a 10-hour window can improve firefighters’ well-being.


Salk scientist receives $1.2 million grant from Keck Foundation to develop transparent tissues for diagnostics and therapeutics

LA JOLLA—A team of investigators led by Salk Professor Inder Verma has received a $1.2 million grant from the W. M. Keck Foundation to generate transparent tissues in mammals using optically unique proteins called reflectins. This work will allow researchers to make better observations and extend the capabilities of live microscopy, such as observing the brain activity of mice while they are awake.


Salk researchers discover how liver responds so quickly to food

LA JOLLA—Minutes after you eat a meal, as nutrients rush into your bloodstream, your body makes massive shifts in how it breaks down and stores fats and sugars. Within half an hour, your liver has made a complete switch, going from burning fat for energy to storing as much glucose, or sugar, as possible. But the speed at which this happens has flummoxed scientists—it’s too short a time span for the liver’s cells to activate genes and produce the RNA blueprints needed to assemble new proteins to guide metabolism.